Digitized by the Internet Archive
GAWKING HEADS 2
THE READERS TALK BACK 4
SAFE AND SORRY: THE LEGACY OF AIDS 10
A LOVE POEM 19
SPECTACLE FOR SALE 20
HAZZARD PAY 21
ART ART! AND JESSE'S WORLD 24
ART? WHAT ART? 26
BEING & NOTHINGNESS 27
SPOOKY DAYS OF THE WIDE EYED 30
MUSING ON THE CHANCE OF
UNHERALDED DESTRUCTION 31
EXECUTION BY PING-PONG 32
WALKING OUT TOMORROW 35
HELL ON THE 33RD FLOOR 36
BURT MEYERS 40
LOST HISTORY 42
Responses to PlV's readers' survey
Analysis by Green Fuchsia
Fiction by Margot Pepper
Poem by Bruce Isaacson
Tale of Toil by Adam Quest
Tale of Toil by Roger Coleman
Blazey, Swift, Daniels, Gray, Black
Merle Kessler, Gregg Nakanishi and Ann Henry
Introduction to PiV art survey, spring 1989
Tale of Art Toil by Mark Burbey
Fiction by Jacques Servin
Poem by Ivan Argiielles
Fiction by Gregory Burnham
Fiction by Anne Ellsworth
Fiction by Elisa DeCarlo
Fiction by Frank Ananicz
Review by Primitivo of
Dennis Hayes' Behind The Silicon Curtain
From our readers
COLLECTIVE: Green Fuchsia, D.S. Black, Marina LaZara,
Emily Post-It, Pauline Portamento, Ana Logue, Trixie
T-Square, Frog and the amazing Primitivo Morales.
CONTRIBUTORS: Alexandre Saporetti, Merle Kessler, Lucius Cabins, Maxine Holz, xie-fu, C.J. Flaming Madman, I.B.
Nelson, JRS, Jacques Servin, Ivan Arguelles, Odette Meyers & Burt Meyers (posthumously), L. Barbudo, Gregg Nakanishi
& Ann Henry, Adam Quest, the Billboard Liberation Front, Zoe Noe, Roger Coleman, Angela Bocage, Gregory Burnham,
Anne Ellsworth, Jesus Jr., Pike Bishop, Michael Botkin, MarsMensch. Elisa DeCarlo, Ace Backwords, klipschutz, Frank
Ananicz, the Dead Honkey, Margot Pepper, Chaz Bufe & Typesetting Etc., Bruce Isaacson, Tom Tomorrow, Mark Burbey,
Paris, Blazey, Jon Swift, Bili Turner, Jim Daniels, Patrick Worth Gray, Art Tinnitus, RGD, Dennis Hayes, Mary Jane
Whitecollar, all the readers who responded to our inquiries, and others whose names elude us.
Front Cover: design by David Peterson, photo by Stan Gamel of Carlos Rubio.
Back Cover: design by David Peterson, poem by D.S. Black
ISSN 0735-9381 Processed World is indexed in the Alternative Press Index. All of the
articles in Processed H-'or/r/ reflect the views of the author and not necessarily those of
other contributors or the Bay Area Center for Art And Technology.
Processed World is a project of the Bay Area Center For Art And Technology, a California
non-profit corporation. BACAT's mailing address is 37 Clementina St., San Francisco,
"'There just isn't a policeman for
every person who calls... this
isn't a Utopia."
LA County Sheriff's Dept.
spokesperson responding to questions
regarding murder victim who
was denied help when she called 91 1.
. . . Gawking Heads . . .
Glued to the Tube
/ like to watch.
— Chance the Gardener
"... AND NOW HERE IS THE
NEWS FROM NOWHERE ..."
We've all seen the images: the people
in the street; the torchlit marches; the
leaders called to account — they in turn
call out the troops "to restore order"
where there is no business as usual. The
tanks roll in; the moment of truth is
reached where either the popular will
spells relief, if not victory, or the iron
fist crushes dissent, buys itself more
This sequence scrolls across our
screens with such dismal regularity that
we can begin to consider the emergent
patterns, and some of the questions
begged by these glancing blows of
It's funny how the colors of the real world
only really seem real when you viddy them on a
— Alex, A Clockwork Orange
The brutal reaction of the Chinese
government to the popular demonstra-
tions in Tiananmen Square was a hellish
note for spring to end on. Those
depressing days in June were a sharp
reminder that spring is more a matter of
rising temperatures than of soaring
What was more, by tuning in to it
live, many of us were, for a change,
transported by our tvs to somewhere
something vital was in the air. We felt a
fresh wind from the East that lifted the
veil on China; our hearts soared.
Even if Being There meant looking
over Dan Rather's shoulder, we reached
out — in the tactilia of the telephone, we
touched them by fax, modem, floppy,
audio, and of course our eyes, through
To many of us, these consumer
electronics have been tools in search of a
function. Allowing such extensions to
shape our awareness is the ineluctable
way of life in this century. Yet our
electronically amplified senses present
whole new problems of epistemology
never considered by Berkeley or Hume.
The new information ganglia have
become our most vulnerable points as a
species. Therein develop cults, and yes,
nationalism. We share a collective
"electronic shadow memory" which is
constantly manipulated by the image-
makers of today. Like flickers on the
cave wall, these images serve to enliven
us through the omniscient celebrity eye
of the voyeur; we witness instant history
in the orgasm of the moment. What
actually happens Out There (on the
street) remains at bottom an ocean of
2 • PROCESSED WORLD 24
As so vividly demonstrated by South
Africa's State of Emergency (recently
renewed for a fourth year), an entire
nation can be wiped from the center
stage of public debate with the flick of a
censor's switch. The recent sham elec-
tions for the largely white South African
parliament momentarily attracted the
flighty attention of the news media. The
defiance campaign has rippled our wa-
tery eyes, but has yet to spur a mean-
ingful change from the U.S. policy of
Information is available, in this
country at least, if one makes the effort,
and has an octopal grasp of the issues.
Whether it be by watching the half hour
weekly news program South Africa Now
on Public Television, or pursuing other
examples of the alternative media, one
can get some idea of what is happening
with the struggle against apartheid.
The mainstream commercial media is
to world news coverage what Nestle's is
to nourishment. In the reflection of the
visually adhesive boob tube (idiot lan-
tern; that damned box; glass teat, etc.,
as television has been variously known),
we are reduced to window shopping
channel-hoppers, with a cafeteria-style
view of history.
Causes come like fads in the carousel
of world events. There are few cam-
paigns which capture the imagination
and remain after so many ricochets
through the media web. Those "natter-
ing nabobs of negativism" who cause
Uncle Sam such embarrassment can be
cowed into silence, as when Secretary of
State Al Haig denounced their coverage
of El Salvador in the early '80s.
The Chinese authorities have de-
monstrated a particularly disturbing
affinity for the new technology. Video,
the electron gun of television, serves as
the ubiquitous informant, the eyes of
Big Brother which sweep many public
assemblies. The world is sensed through
a two-way lens, as deadly as any gun
barrel. Dissident faceprints are broad-
cast, leading to arrests in ironic imita-
tion of /Immca 5 A/o5< Wanted.
The government version of recent
history becomes the new national reali-
ty. To survive one must, at least in
public, toe the party line with what the
Chinese call biaotai* — one expresses an
attitude which conforms to the new
improved rendition of recent events.
One lies, in keeping with the spirit of the
While repressive societies can control
what one says or does, it takes a
powerful propaganda apparatus to
shape what a people think. The ability of
the Chinese system to program its
people (more than a billion) will be
tested in the months ahead.
Our society, preferring the subtlety of
manipulation to the crude brutality of
armed force, exhibits a more sophisti-
cated version of everyday "virtual reali-
The same technology, as we have
seen, cuts both ways. The intijadah, on
the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip,
has been sustained by a sophisticated
underground information network, with
fax and copy machines on the move to
get transmissions in and the message
out. This summer's production of the
San Francisco Mime Troupe, Seeing
Double, has added computer viruses to
the armory of unconventional warfare
used against Mossad, the Israeli secret
service. Another promising forum for
the mass democratic movement in
South Africa is described elsewhere (see
• • •
Processed World\\a.s, from its inception,
been of many minds, both wary of and
drawn to the kidnapped child, technolo-
We all must rise to the Pied Piper's lilt
at some point or other. It has long been
stressed in these pages that life will
become/has become unsupportable un-
less we get a grip on the turning wheel of
progress and reinvest it with a purpose
that promotes survivail of the planet and
assures everyone equally human rights.
That may seem like a pretty tall order,
but it's the only real work that ultimately
is going to matter. As anybody who has
once passed "Go" should know, we
cannot continue to grind away blithely
at our workstations when, as we look
ahead, the horizon is hurtling towards
us. There is a basic formula for survivEil
that still eludes us as a species; can we
endure such ignorance at this stage of
As we wait to see which is stronger—
our folly or our genius — it's back to
work in the flesh and fiber optic inter-
zone. Adam Quest's tale of toil, "Spec-
tacle for Sale," highlights the modern
televideo world and its workers. The
TV age is also examined in Jacques
Servin's fictional piece, "Spooky Days of
the Wide-Eyed." "The next generations
would consist of those people like me
who had once found the act of watching
television inexpressibly soothing. . ."
Margot Pepper's "Work" quantifies
the time siphoned off from meaningful
activity by most "work," while L. Bar-
budo's letter reflects on the Oakland
schools in his response to "Children of
the Night" in issue #23. The modern
electronic workplace is dissected in PW
contributor Dennis Hayes' book, Behind
the Silicon Curtain, reviewed here by
Dead Poets' booster klipschutz has
lovingly assembled and introduced a
series of poems by the late Bert Meyers
ranging in moods from "Time is an old
boss/ we hate together ..." to "Dark
trees have bottled its light. /They glow
like many beers."
Speaking of epistemology, this issue
features further thoughts on the subject
of AIDS. In issue #15, the group
editorial "Quarantine Corner" discussed
the vector of disinformation that
sketched out much of the public revul-
sion to people with AIDS. In this issue.
Green Fuchsia takes aim at the backlash
against unconventional (i.e. unmarried,
non-monogamous) sexual behaviors
and relationships. Anything involving
sex and death will generate furor, as
"Safe and Sorry: the Legacy of AIDS"
occasioned some heat and smoke among
the editors. His review of the scientific
literature, coupled with a visceral rejec-
tion of the new sexual conformity, calls
into question the true meaning of "safe
behaviors," the inculcation of which can
be found in the cultural agenda of state
and health authorities, AIDS activists,
and other concerned citizens who would
pave our way to oblivion with the best of
Some readers who have written to us
object to the fiction and poetry that
appear in this magazine. We say it's
spinach, and you will find in this issue
lots of bite-sized pieces ideal for eleva-
tor-reading, or to enjoy on the John.
Three short fictional pieces ("Hell on the
33rd Floor," "Iggy" and "Walking Out
Tomorrow") are the latest in our vision
of capitalist realism.
Issue #23 included a reader survey,
which was mailed to subscribers during
the spring. You've done us proud! The
6% response rate was (unexpectedly)
high. Most of the respondents wrote at
length. We've done some severe prun-
ing; the results are presented on pages
4-9. Some came to praise, others to
bury, yet others "got something off their
chests." There were a few Tales of Toil
in miniature. A profound thanks to all
who took the time to respond — results
won't be immediate, but we've learned a
We included a questionnaire (that
most loathsome of forms) with the
mailing to subscribers. The object was
to elicit material on "art," whatever that
may be. Again, the response was great
— in fact, it was so massive as to require
more space and planning for its presen-
tation. We whet your appetites by
presenting for your consideration (as
Rod Serling would say) Mark Burbey's
provocative essay "Why We Live, or,
Being vs. Nothingness." We also present
two different views of Jesse Helms as a
patron of the arts in our centerfold. On
page 26 the survey questions are repeat-
ed and the answers to date summarized
in the hope of obtaining yet more grist
for our mill.
Apologies for not including more, but
issue #25 will have a major section on
art and work, artistic or not.
So as not to leave out those with other
interests, we propose another theme,
one touched on in the past: leisure time
and travel. How we spend it (or want
to); what working in the relaxation
industry is like; the vacation of the
future — either as satire or speculation.
How about a semiotic analysis of lawn
furniture? It's up to you.
Some readers have written saying
they would like to hear from places other
than San Francisco.
We agree. So . . . MAKE IT HAP-
PEN. Send us tales from your neck of
We would like to see more analytical
articles. What's happening at your
workplace? Is there any work-place
organizing going on? What environ-
mental issues are or should be at the
forefront? What burning issues have we
missed? Have we burned any of the
issues touched on here? (Careful with
that flag, Eugene!)
So write, and write often. We love
hearing from all-a ya. Bye!
— Art Tinnitus & The PW collective
Biao— Surface, outside,
Tai — posture, stance,
To make known one's position,
To declare where one stands
PROCESSED WORLD 24 • 3
The Readers Talk Back
An emboldened six percent of our
readers responded to the Great Processed
World S\ir\ey in issue #23. There were 54
respondents, of whom } were non-
subscribers and 6 were new subscribers.
Here are some of their more pithy
responses. We start out with some Tales
of Toil in miniature (truncated tails?)
generated by the question:
Do you sell your life to buy your survival?
How? Do you work in an office, with
computers or people? Are you doing the
processing or are you being processed? Or
are you outside of it all?
Ace Backwards, CA: (^uit my straight
job 4 years ago and have been bent ever
M.R., TX: I dream of tearing it all down,
(gendy and painlessly of course) but mean-
time I'm providing consumers with what
they really want: a credit-card operated gas
pump, so they won't even have to go in the
store. At last.
J.U., CA: ... I am an editor for an
"alternative" music magazine ... I work at
home. The computer isn't always on, but I
have to use it often. I work alone. Friends
come by to visit sometimes, but not as often
as I would like (most of them have to work at
real jobs). I have a big say in what the
magazine writes about, but I also have to
accommodate the content to the needs/de-
sires of the readership and marketplace. I
never want to be "outside of it all." The
times are too heavy to stand on the sidelines.
J.E., TX: Personally, I slave for wages as
a practical nurse on a cancer floor in a large
"non-profit" (i.e. very profitable) hospital.
Love my work, my patients and my fellow
nurses. Have earned a bachelor^s degree in
chemistry and have planned to get out of
nursing as it is a rough profession for
anybody past early middle age (I am 35).
Have been accepted for grad school but as
my prospective employers are drug co's or
giant chemo firms a la Dow and Union
Carbide I am not enthusiastic. The hard
sciences are the most intellectually demand-
ing study going ... yet they also produce
the narrowest tunnel vision — I have yet to
see any of even the brightest of my fellow
science grads show anything like genuine
intellectual curiosity. I worked in Amnesty
International with business and accounting
types who were far more interesting people
than my fellow chemistry majors.
T.C.B., ??: My jobs have always in-
volved office, secretarial, business, comput-
er, paper-pushing tasks. Used to believe that
I did this work "accidentally", that I some-
how should be doing something "important"
or "creative." Well, this work seems to be
what I'm good at — organizing information,
minimizing repetition, constructing sys-
tems. The challenge now is to find settings
where I can sell these skills and not hate
myself . . .
P.S., VA: I am a reformed art student,
working in Washington, D.C. I studied film
and video production, and graduated with a
B.A. I enlisted in the U.S. Navy (after a
frustrating job hunt) and worked as a TV
production specialist. I recorded lots of news
programs relating to DoD actions and
policy, played movies on a closed-circuit TV
system, and produced/edited in-house pro-
jects. It was a job, not an adventure.
After 5 years of the Navy, I became a
federal employee. As a producer/director for
the U.S. Army, I am doing the work I went
to school for and always wanted to do. I
exercise creative decisions and take pride in
the work I do, trying to communicate the
message in each script in an understandable
and human fashion. The finished products
are not entertainment, but they do serve a
purpose — education and training.
On the surface, it would appear that I
have been processed. As I sit in my office, in
the Pentagon, typing this letter to you, it
would appear that way. But I do make a
difference here. My input will make the
government better, more aware and caring.
I do believe this. Not kinder and gentler,
but more aware.
And reading your magazine helps me to
do this, opening my mind to new and
exciting ways of looking at ourselves.
N.G., MN: I'm too tired to talk about my
life so I cheat and won't answer.
PW, Walla Walla WA, I haven't sold my
life for survival, but rather I've been kid-
napped by the state into prison where I am
currently being held against my will. I work
as an unpaid volunteer in the prison law
library. No computers here. To the extent
that I have control over my life and actions I
am not being processed in that I use the
means available to me to improve my, and
others', living conditions, human rights, etc.
P.D., CA: I do not sell my life to buy my
survival. However, I anticipate that it may
happen. Currently I am fortunate/unfor-
tunate in being a single mom on welfare. As
my contribution — I go to school and am a
full-time activist. I look at it that the state is
paying for me to improve society. I produce
a monthly newsletter, flyers, press releases
and a zillion other things on the computer.
It drives me crazy! Although I control the
materials, I think anyone who sits in front of
a computer is being done to (processed) on
A.R., NY: I've sold chunks of my life in
many ways to buy survival and still do,
although more happily. I'm a graduate
student in history at a school where they
actually provide me with enough fellow-
ship. . . On the other hand, school is work,
just not too well paid and differently struc-
tured. I sure do spend a lot of time with this
computer. Before school I worked in restau-
rants as a waitress, cook, dishwasher and
bus-person; in various left-wing or academic
organizations as a receptionist and word
processor and, as a sop to my ego, as an
"organizer" (more phone calls, ugh, the
telephone is worse than the computer); as a
photographic printer and camera operator;
as a construction worker; as a temp for
various large, ugly corporations; you know,
the usual. Being a receptionist was the
worst; being a photo printer was the best
except that it made me ill from the chemis-
try and I got fired for calling OSHA.
Actually being a grad student is the best,
W.W., NY: I do whatever work I can get.
I'm one of Capital's throwaways because of
my resistance to war while serving with the
Marines in Viet Nam. I also have done time
for not talking to a Grand Jury. Employers
don't look on my unstable life too kindly.
My latest jobs have been inventory clerk,
child care worker, and landscaping. I have
probably had over 100 jobs so far in my life.
I went through 10 the first year back from
Viet Nam. My temper is a lot more
controlled now so I don't openly assault
stupid bosses anymore. I work with com-
puters, just data entry while doing inven-
4 • PROCESSED WORLD 24
The Equalizer, NY: I'm a "film drudge"
for a very violent TV show on prime
time. . . This is my 31st week working on
this show— 2 more months till it's over (no
more 50-60 hour weeks) and I'm unemp-
loyed (no more $$), That's Show Biz! (This
is not glamorous!)
FCF, Soledad, CA.: I am outside ol it all.
Not because I'm here, but because I refuse
to be less than what I came to this speck of
dust as, and I will leave as I came — a caring
human being. I feel it is more important to
be a part of this earth than a sore upon the
face of it.
G.M.T., CA: Yes, I have a steady job — I
am a cook in a moderately high class
restaurant — which is considered neither ar-
tistic creation nor world salvation. But
neither does it destroy the environment
(except for the decimation of Alaskan King
Crab and Pacific Swordfish), nor does it
warp people's minds. As with most jobs it
demands sacrifices: I have to cut my hair
and shave my face. More important, it
demands 30-40 hours a week, time which I
would rather spend writing and studying the
nature of reality. On the other hand, there is
a lot to be said for bringing pleasure into
others' lives. . . It gives me an opportunity
to focus on simple quality, and through my
example inspire others to do the same.
Which probably sounds like rampant ego-
tism and rationalization, and to some extent
is, but I just want you to know that while I
may regret the time it uses up, I enjoy my
job and in no way feel guilty about it.
L.O., NY: I have been tamed by 16 years
in the workforce — now I need the structure.
But for a year and a half, I worked a 3-day
week plus free-lance, when I felt like it. That
was great. It's been real hard going back to
full-time. I keep trying to find "meaningful
work" & nothing's ever been pure enough.
Now I work for a gov't agency on recycling;
last job was for a pseudo-feminist nonprofit
that had the ethics of a brothel; my most
"fulfilling^' job was way back when I edited
puzzle magazines, they really reached the
wretched of the earth.
P.P., CA: INFORMATION SOCIETY:
I like computers. They are my little friends.
I hear of their growth mostly from a
coworker, who is truly in tune with technol-
ogy (he has held worship services at the foot
of Sutro TV tower). . . . To come across
something that treats information technolo-
gy like an infestation of fascistic happy-face
slime molds is thought provoking. This is a
good thing in a field where almost all the
news comes from press releases and ads. . . .
I expect to see a new profession appear
soon — people to tell you how to make the
most of all the information available to you.
What I want to see is a discussion of whether
and how we can avoid being controlled by
our data flow. CONSIDER THIS A SUG-
GESTION FOR AN EDITORIAL
THEME. . . .
J.S., TX: Indeed, I ransom a portion of my life to the time-bandits for my biological
survival. Ours is an anthropology of needs, as you well know, and though I attempt to
resist this anthropology as much as possible, it is impossible to do so entirely. So despite a
relatively low rent, virtually no furnishings, a bare minimum of appliances (the "needs!"),
and a 20' X 20' plot where I attempt to grow a goodly portion of my summer victuals, I
have still been compelled to seek to be exploited. I work presently as a technical translator
(I have been with die company 9 months). I translate all manner of documents from
Spanish to English and vice-versa. ... I have seen, but never felt obligated to speak to,
the second-in-command, a Dan Quayle look-alike who dresses in Madras shorts and polo
shirts. I report only to a gaggle of robust middle-aged women, who variously hold such
titles as office manager, assistant office manager, and the like. These stalwart individuals
heave IBM Selectrics and large boxes of files around like so many down pillows, and
swear like truck drivers when together and believe themselves out of earshot of the more
gentrified editors, whom they consider unreconstructed pointy-heads. Their relationship
to us translators is more ambiguous; in general, they consider us oddities, since most of
us have peculiar semi-foreign backgrounds (or are foreigners entirely, toward whom they
have an attitude of amused interest, which in some cases verges on scorn). . . . Suffice it
to say that what I translate almost invariably involves the scheming of multinational
corporations for more profits: the marketing of new and casuistically uncertain drugs
(mosdy antibiotics); an attempt by Shell to grab a huge tract in the Gran Chaco just after
Stroessner's overthrow; an attempt by Eli Lilly Co. to refuse to pay the Mexican
government a $5 million debt, on the excuse that Mexico's severance of ties with South
Africa had hurt the company's market; and so forth. These are all documents from the
companies themselves, their legal representatives, or foreign governments. That is to
say, the clients who are hiring my services are usually the multinationals themselves.
Sometimes my jobs involve pure R&D, e.g. nuclear magnetic resonance research,
polymers, etc. (these are usually articles from research journals); other times they are
instruction manuals (how to slap together circuit boards, for instance — used in Mexican
maquiladora factories, etc.). Occasionally something which I consider actually useful to
society will come my way, e.g. a lengthy report on the battle against onchocerciasis (river
blindness) in Equatorial Guinea (this is a WHO-related Spanish research team).
I am paid a pittance for all this: $31.00 per 1,000 words of the original language. In
theory, I could crank out 3,000 words a day, but not only is there not this much work to
be had (it comes in waves), I wouldn't want to work this much anyway. (About 60% of
the company's work is in Japanese; German comes next). I doubt I will translate more
than 300,000 words this year, which means I'll make around $10,000 for the whole year.
So do I enjoy my job? Clearly, I am getting ripped off; after all, I am providing a service
for some of the largest multinationals (du Pont, Merck, Sharp & Dohme, Shell); at the
same time, I am fascinated by seeing what depravities these corporations will stoop to
next. On a purely personal and artisanal level, I am quite interested in the play between
languages . . .
Nevertheless, the ironies of my situation are sometimes ludicrous. I have, for example,
just finished a translation of an article written by Cesar Chavez in April for the
Sacramento Bee regarding the misuse of pesticides, for distribution to Spanish-language
press (a volunteer thing which the United Farm Workers asked me to do; since I do a lot
of medical translating and am fairly familiar with the terminology, I have also
volunteered to translate such things as as AIDS pamphlet for the Chicano community,
etc.). And now, after just completing the pesticide article, I find before me, from my
payingjob, a long patent from the Stauffer Chemical Co. for a new herbicide.
PROCESSED WORLD 24 • 5
What did you think
Didn't see it:
Didn't see it and want it:
Not so Hot:
L.A., OR: For me, the "Green Issue"
(#22) was a bit pale, undernourished per-
haps. Or was it a matter of fertilizer or even
J. P., CA: I thought the issue was a good
one, especially in its willingness to criticize a
"politically correct" movement. I think that
it is good to criticize ideas or movements
generally accepted by a group as "correct,"
rather than only criticizing movements or
ideas generally accepted by a group to be
suspect or wrong. ... I have to admit that
whenever I saw articles about the "green
movement" in the paper or in magazines, I
didn't really think about them; I just put the
greens in the category of good people
working for a good cause (with a tremen-
dous jerk of the knee). I was quite surprised,
then, to read about the other side of the
movement, the side that seems to hate
human beings with a passion. I certainly
don't lump all the greens under the "stupid
bastards" category now, but I do try to think
a bit harder about these groups. Lesson
learned, thanks to PW .
P.S., VA: Issue #22 was very dogmatic.
The "green" philosophy deserves much at-
tention, and I am glad you focused on it.
Many of your contributors had their own
personal agendas (it seemed) and issue #22
often reminded me of tracts handed out at
Anon6, AZ: Yes
T.C.B.: Hated it. Now that I live in the
Northwest and have a lot more contact with
Green-type issues, I'm continually disgusted
by righteous ideologues who don't want to
do the down-and-dirty work of cooperation
and compromise among all the people and
interests involved. Blaming Big Bizness is so
much easier than talking to third-generation
loggers about why you're trying to destroy
W.S., CA: The Green issue was political-
ly correct but not as interesting to read as
many other issues.
Anon2, NY: The "Green Issue" was
pretty good. ... I couldn't agree with you
more regarding your assessment of the
Green movement. Not that I was ever much
of an expert on the subject, but I don't much
care for people who would consider me
politically incorrect just for indulging in an
S.S., CA: I think it is important for the
left to be self-critical. If I thought anything
about the green issue it was that I saw some
healthy criticism. I bet some greens had a
hard time swallowing that. I'm not sure PW
should identify with greens more.
FCF, CA: I am really into the Green
issue, and your issue was really an insightful
view of the Greens. . . . Anyone who is alive
on this earth should be totally involved in
the Green movement.
Should PW get involved in the
Up to You:
Greens should join you:
MP, CA: Nope. Maybe left greens.
LA, OR: No. PW should not get
involved in the "green movement" or any
other movement for that matter, if you wish
to continue being "The Magazine With A
Bad Attitude." Once you begin to concen-
trate on and actively promote specific issues
you also begin to narrow your focus, take
sides, and thus acquire the blinders that
prevent you from seeing all those other
opportunities out there that lend enhance-
ment to your Bad Attitude. The result is to
become mired in ideology and dogma.
SBG: I think PW should get involved in
everything. My motto is "Everybody's busi-
ness is my business." I am no isolationist.
J. P., CA: ... I don't think PPK should get
involved in the green movement. Yes, the
green movement is important (certainly, in
the big picture, much more important than
the plight of the modern office worker), but
so are many other movements and issues,
each worthy of its own magazine. I think
that PW\i, important in that it gives people a
place to read and write about what is going
on in the lives of people in situations similar
to their own, from both a cranky, god-i-
hate-this point of view, and from a more
universal how-does-it-all-fit-together point
of view. This gives people both an outlet for
frustration and inspiration to keep at it (life,
that is) with a reminder that there are many
more important things to life besides work.
If PW were to lose its present focus, and
concentrate on the bigger issues, I think this
outlet and inspiration would disappear from
I.B., MI: Of course! The worst pollution
is indoor pollution. The hermetically sealed
office building is the most hazardous envi-
ronment. The people who create this kind of
micro-environment for us are the same ones
despoiling our macro-environment.
M.R., TX: Involved in the green move-
ment? I dunno. I felt a homecoming feeling
when reading the intro to "Maggies Farm"
article. I fear I too am a "wannabe green."
Should be green but they don't quite reach
me. Their grassroots approach, the target-
ing of individual consumers was, I once
thought, important because only through a
fundamental shift in everyone's values —
away from "mindless consumption" — would
a real, deep, lasting change take place. I
envisioned a "trickle-up" effect — once a
"critical mass" shared these values the gov-
ernment, corporations changed, being made
up themselves of individual consumers. This
was the First Grassroots Vision. Okay, pull
the flowers out of your hair. (What kind of
drugs is that girl on., anyway?) I think
rather that a revolutionary change must
happen. This system is flawed at its roots.
. . . I'm not sure you could join the greens &
provide that rebellious energy. It would be
delicate. But a combination of forces and
ideas — yes.
P.D., CA: Green Movement!? How
about a more militant stance? Earth First! is
where it's at! I think the notion of the green
movement is a good one but I'm quick to
fear the liberals bureaucratizing and being
concerned about offending someone! Right
On! Let's offend away! I find it extremely
offensive what we're doing to our planet.
Liberals beware! As Mao said, "Combat
W.S., CA. I dunno, it just depresses me
to think about it.
L.O., NY: But you can do much more.
There are lots of Greens around, not so
6 • PROCESSED WORLD 24
Should you join the 'greens?'
Reading, or studying:
None of yr Bus:
Lack of faith:
Wouldn't join a party:
L.A., OR: Rather not! ... I dislike
confrontations. No marches, no sit-ins, no
protests, no rebellions, no ultimatums, no
manifestoes. No nothing. Go play instead.
SBG: I am a very politically involved
person, but it hurts. I have little time, less
money, and no stomach for bureaucratic
harassment on any level. Please advise. In
the face ol the Exxon holocaust, not to
mention my own small town's development,
I ask myself, "What then, must be done?"
We can lobby, protest, and recycle goods,
but I do not have undying faith in the
political process or even in the ability of
humankind to save itself. And I sure don't
think God's going to get involved.
P.S., VA: I guess I'm a reader, not an
activist. I'm not ready to be green yet.
Anon6, AZ: The individual must become
involved in the Green movement, or "socie-
ty" will not survive.
I.B., Ml: I tried to, but it's not easy to
find a "Green" group in this area. Detroit is
still a one-industry "company-town" where
most people think Ralph Nader is a Gommu-
P.P., CA: As far as involvement goes, for
you or me, well, I usually strap on ' the
mental gas mask before I deal with any
political party. I prefer to deal with issues,
where the power trips that politicking brings
out in people are at least focussed. The
Greens tackle a lot of important issues,
better and more than most Parties, and
that's why I like them. I wouldn't join a
party, though, unless I saw a need it could
Jill, either in myself or in the world.
^L, VA: Yes, I'm running for congress in
de [sic] suburbs on a Green Platform.
W.W., NY: Economic survival and in-
terest to relocate to a place, where it's
possible to live collectively take my major
time, I have been forced to live under
austerity most of my life and have a hard
time with fads. I do love nature over
development but that's often tied in with my
hatred of capital, which makes commodities
out of everything. I also have been corrupt-
ed by growing up in an inner city. I love
movies and libraries.
A.R., NY: As for me, yeah, I recycle, etc.
but here in Brooklyn immediate human
needs distract me from the needs of the
planet. So no, I shouldn't get involved in the
greens, I'm busy with AIDS stuff and
abortion stuff and refugee stuff and you
A.B., CA: I suppose I should get in-
volved, whatever that's supposed to mean.
However, in any "movement" there's a
certain social element involved, and since I
am socially incompetent I don't get in-
Anon5, AZ: Us? Well ... I don't espe-
cially like associating w/ granolaheads but if
the movement makes an attempt to dissoci-
ate itself then I'd "join." Roommate says
"Sure why not?" but realistically, won't go
out of his way- it'll have to come to his
Friday evening beer "salon."
'*"-"- "--•-- •• • ^^ ^^^ ' encounter in an office behind the xerox How many people read your copy of /^H/? ^
When & where did you
first encounter PWl \
Magazine or paper:
(including Utne Reader,
Village Voice, Bay
Press Directory, Facisheel S)
PIV street activities:
Anon2, NY: First heard about PW from
another legal proofreader. Hidden in our
major corporate law firms, there are a
bunch of proofreaders who would love to
bring the system down.
JB, lA: In Ottawa, Ontario ... It was, as
I recall, the second issue on sex. It looked
interesting — I was intrigued by your name
— I bought it — but upon reading it I was
disappointed. After that I only flipped
through a few issues now and then in stores,
but as they say: "Once bitten ..." However,
a good friend of mine just lent me issue #23
and it is quite good. So I'm subscribing.
AR, NY: I had heard rumors about it
along the disgruntled-clerical-worker grape-
vine for some years. In fact what I'd heard
was that there was some anarchist magazine
out in California somewhere that would tell
you how temp workers could rapidly and
secretly bring large corporations crashing to
their knees via sabotage. So when the first
issue I saw did not provide instructions for
this project I was sorry, but liked it anyway.
Anon4: I first encountered PW a few
years ago. I think it was your sex issue, and
I still remember a short story about a sexual
machine involving white-out and scotch
tape (I think). The story made a vivid
impression on me, but I seem to have
forgotten all the details.
PS, VA: I first saw your magazine in the
computer magazine section ... at the news
stand in the Pentagon Concourse. It was
issue #21, and I have never seen another. I
waited many months and finally asked the
vendor about it, and of course, no one ever
knew what I was talking about. It became
obvious to me the need to subscribe, though
I still check the computer section, just in
case . . .
F&SW, MA: We encountered our first
issue: "Processed Kids" in Salt Lake City's
only "punk rock" record store — on the far
west side of town. We bought it immediate-
ly. We bought the "Processed Foods" issue in
an anarchist bookstore in Amsterdam.
JS, TX: First encountered PM^ being sold
in front of Roxy Theater, SF, by a funny-
looking guy with a .sandwich board. I
dismissed the guy as a crank, but my pal
bought a copy, and we got to look at it
before the movie started, and it was pretty
funny. The movie, by the way, was some
kind of neo-situationist effort. Call it Sleep.
The year, ca. 1982.
Responses ranged from a high of 45 to a low
of 1 (natch), reported by 15 people. The
average is about 2.4 people. It seems to get
copied a lot.
Only two responses stated that their
names could be used— both of them prison-
ers. We have decided to leave everyone
hidden behind initials (sometimes altered).
This gives everybody the same weight, and
prevents any retaliations. We have edited
the responses for clarity and brevity.
LA, OR: As far as I know, I am the only
responsible human reading my copies of
PW. ... I have no idea how many irre-
sponsibles may be reading it. My wife has
occasionally glanced through an issue but
has apparently failed to be grabbed enough
to read much of it.
SBG, ??: Anywhere from 3-10 depending
on how many friends I have recently
PW, Walla Walla WA.: Anywhere from
5-7 people read my copy. Double that if
their cellmates read it too.
PD, CA: 1 1/3 (myself, my roommate
about every 3rd issue, and once in a while
my kids admire the graphics).
WS, CA. Only I usually read PW. Oddly
enough, I don't seem to have many friends
to whom it would be relevant. Maybe I'll
check this out further, though.
JB, lA: 3-4. This sounds suspiciously like
the kind of info you'd give to potential
advertisers. IJ you're going to use this information
to sell me to advertisers you can just tear this up
along with my check and cancel my subscription
before it even begins.'.' I refuse to be a commodity,
traded and exchanged via advertising, and I
would expect a magazine like yours would
be sensitive to that.
Anon4: My husband and my teen-age
daughter also read the magazine.
MR, England: Mostly just myself reads
PW, occasionally a colleague gets a frag-
ment down his or her throat.
PROCESSED WORLD 24 • 7
What do you like best
Poetry, Fiction, Graphics,
Tales of Toil,
Analysis & Essays
Tales of Toil:
Essays & Analysis:
P.S., VA: It is refreshing to hear other
people analyze our little world with fresh
perspectives. It gives me hope that the
"processing" is not complete or homogenous.
B.S., NY: I like best the revolutionary
elements of PIV, the elements that satirize
and expose the parallels between Nazi
Germany and the U.S. today, the elements
that satirize and expose the mindlessness the
bourgeoisie is trying to get us to take on. I .
like your global focus, your focus on imperi-
alism both in the U.S. bloc and the Soviet
S.S., CA: Good graphics. I like the fact
that the magazine is geared toward working
people. But, I think that if you want to
reach the masses you might consider being
less intellectual/artsy. Not that working
people can't understand anything beyond SF
Chronicle 3rd grade level, but it feels
J.W.: Tales of Toil are my favorite! I'll
never forget a wonderful article written by a
janitor who worked in the downtown man-
sions of capitalism. The poetry is often
remarkable: funny bitter, zany, stuff you
don't read in the academic poetry rags,
that's for sure!
J.E., TX: I like factual articles best — real
life experiences of readers. "You've Got to
Give Me Credit," "Mud Shark for Hire."
The article by the guy whose parents were
Los Alamos scientists was devastating. (I
grew up an Army brat familiar with "securi-
ty" restrictions so I have some faint idea of
where this guy comes from.) Art work is
uniformly good as is layout and the general
"feel" of the mag— I love a publication that
looks competently produced but not slick. I
love graphic art and would like to see more.
Ace Backwards, CA: Like the cool
neo-psychotic graphics and Tales of Toil.
T.C.B.: Enjoy Tales of Toil. First-person
narrative allows writer more freedom and
cdlows reader to draw own conclusions.
Analysis and Essays: Enjoyment strictly
dependent upon writer's skill in presenting
ideas. If content is factual, I usually give
article more credence than if content is
theoretical/ideological. I tire of politicos
with a beef preaching to the faithful. Fiction
& Poetry: Almost never "enjoy" these, but
think they have a place in PW. I try to
extend courtesy to the authors, but usually
find the pieces sophomoric. Graphics: Oh,
sure. Pictures are great. My ongoing favor-
ite feature of PW is the letters. Love
following the rhubarbs between grumpy
rad-libs, and occasionally get a sense of real
people with real feelings responding to what
they read in PW.
Anon2, NY: In a way I like the fiction
most because it is rare to see a magazine that
publishes fiction which directly challenges
the values, structures or work rules of our
society. I wish the fiction were as polished as
some of the essays, though. These are
probably the best crafted elements of the
magazine. I wish all the text were more free
of typos and grammatical inaccuracies,
though I suppose this problem is a result of a
small staff, time pressures and a lack of
funds. With regard to the fiction, you do
occasionally publish something that is per-
fectly polished and dazzlingly good. Off-
hand, I can think of one story by Michael
Blumlein, . . . His PW story ["Softcore" in
issue #20], though, was better and more
poignant than some other stories of his that
L.A., OR: Tales of Toil have caught my
attention more than any other features of
PW. There is one possible exception: I am
still fascinated by all of issue #18 and your
ability to poke satire at sex. But then I've
always lead a very sheltered life.
W.S., CA.: Critiques of the dehumaniz-
ing social processes that are supposed to
form our "everyday life." Keep the fiction,
the real-life tales of oppression and its
alternatives, the wacky art & kinky sex.
What do you think we
should get rid of, or
at least de-emphasize?
Whining & Anger:
JP, CA: There is one thing I would like to
see de-emphasized in PW: articles that use
SEX as a prop. I can think of an example for
this -the short piece called "Silicon Valley
Girl." It was clever, and I can see how one
could tie it in with the idea of computers,
technology and business being a substitute
for sex (and love, too), and perhaps I'm
being a little too Victorian here, but ulti-
mately, it gives the magazine (for me,
anyway) a vaguely junior high school feel-
ing, which takes away from the overall
quality of the magazine. Another example of
this would be the graphics of women with
enormous and/or naked breasts, which oc-
casionally are sprinkled throughout the
magazine. I usually can see the point for
including them, but they seem to alienate a
lot of people, judging by the letters page,
and, it seems a bit creepy. I realize the
magazine is produced for a more sophisti-
cated audience than the Cleaver family, but
sometimes, I think it goes a bit too far. I'll
climb down off my biodegradable soap box
now, as it is starting to feel shaky. The damn
thing is degrading, as is my point, I think.
B.S., NY: I think you should de-
emphasize, get rid of, or re-orientate the
anti-technology bent. Technology under
imperialism is certainly fucked up, but
technology and science have no inherent
ideology; it's the ideology and class interest
that make technology good or bad. So,
anyway, I'm not that fond of the anti-
technology aspect of your magazine. Also,
the anarchist/nihilist aspect I'm not that
crazy about, because, like existentialism and
social democracy (what that term signifies
today, not as Lenin used it), these ultimately
capitulate to imperialism. Along the same
lines, it seems to me that PW is in danger of
moving in the direction of wanting in the
system, instead of wanting ou<.
T.C.B.: De-emphasize ideological rants;
present facts, reports, news briefs, first-
person stories, and let readers draw their
Anon4:, ??: De-emphasize turgid ideolo-
gy. You had an article recently about
working for a clothing designer. The details
of what it was like to work there were
fascinating, but that was preceded by a page
of ideology telling us what to think about
what was to come. I hate that. I know what
to think already.
A.R., NY: The fiction and poetry are
dreadful, and I think I've figured out why:
there are a lot of places where writers can
send good fiction and poetry, many of them
even paying, while only PW would publish a
Tale of Toil. So you get a range, I'd
imagine, of non-fiction from the wretched to
the sublime, but only the wretched not-to-
be-submitted-elsewhere fiction. Occasional-
ly you print a good poem, actually. But can
the short stories. Let them eat The New
E.W., NY: Definitely de-emphasize po-
etry, but that's just me. I find most poetry
self-indulgent and obscure to all but the
writer and the writer's close friends. I guess
you can tell I have a problem with poetry,
L.O., NY: I really wish there was more
compassion in PW. It bothers me when
writers make fun of uncool people at work.
It seems so smug . . .
8 • PROCESSED WORLD 24
irJSiDi A pty SHE vva;
T E •< T U A L.
S £ y. ^AL /»g"ouT
I S r^
P O S 7 ' M O I I R N I S /^
What would you like to see happen in PW in
AnonS, NV: Transform the '80s rather
than reproduce the '60s ("Let's go, Gang!")
L.O., NY: You'd keep the big issues in
focus (like health care, the environment,
everything you've had as a theme is great)
— you'd stay funny and free from rat-race
delusions — but incorporate a kinder, gentler
lens to see thru. Please no more artsies
putting down the Philistines. Please more
women, maybe something serious on non-
violence, a little Boddhisattva conscious-
W.W., NY: I would like to see discussion
on how one survives under Capital while
being opposed to it. How do we live and not
always be spurious opposition?
P.D., CA: More marxist analysis.
J.B., lA: Become more radical as North
America moves from this pre-fascist age and
develops into all-out total fascism and/or
economic, ecological and political crisis.
S.S., CA: I'd like to see PW deal more
with labor— movement/ issues.
M.I., CA: A school/education issue
would be groovy. Students like me don't
even get paid (as if money is important) for
our work. We're very oppressed. I might even
contribute if I have the energy. I always like
B.D., CA: Increase focus on children's
concerns & viewpoints.
J.S., TX: 1 believe the basic premise of
your magazine is quite sound. That is, your
emphasis on the nuts-and-bolts of post-
industrial society . . . fills a much-needed
gap in current discourse; I find it hard to
believe that a full 40% -I believe I am
recalling the correct figure here — of the
U.S. work-force is involved in some kind of
labor having to do with symbol/information
manipulation, and the number is growing.
(Meanwhile, production of physical goods is
decreasing in U.S.). Yet you don't see much
comment on the phenomenon (in other
venues) at least none commensurate with its
I guess what I am trying to say is that I
find it highly distressing that this sort of
work, as labor, as production, is going so
unnoticed. Left publications abound, but
they all seem to have to do with aesthetics,
epistemological squabbles, 3rd World
struggles, etc. etc. Not that these are
unimportant (sexual politics, race, environ-
ment are also important), and that you
should ignore them (even if you could), but
it seems to me that PW% niche is precisely to
bring these questions into focus through the
lens of late capit£ilism's new modes of
production and domination. (Always, natu-
rally, in keeping with your accessible and
no-bullshit style). ... I personally find
well-crafted articles which explore the per-
verse vicissitudes of this kind of [consumer-
ist] society irresistible. Nothing fascinates
me more that a clinical account of the
development and marketing of another
demented article of mass distraction. Again,
a lot of rags do a lot of analysis of cultural
phenomena, presumably because they are
written by academics who have only to go
see the movie or the place of architecture
and then go back to campus to digest (and
interpret through their particular "school");
what I look for in PW is a more behind-the-
scenes account of the production of such
J.E., TX: I love your interaction with
readers in the Letters — would like to see
more deeply personal responses to the
ironies and cruelties of techno-modernity
like the Los Alamos article cited above, or
Morales' "Pido Castigo."
A.R., NY: In the future PW should try
(but how?) to be more widely based geogra-
phically. What's going on in the Midwest?
Maybe you should do an exchange program
with The Mill Hunk Herald or something. I
don't care so much about the East Coast
because I live here already. But the South?
More about Mexico? What about the Esprit
sweatshops in Korea? and so on and so on.
L.O., WA: I'd like to see PW published
on a more predictable basis. I never know
when to expect it or if there will be a next
one. (That's why I was apathetic about your
questionnaire. If I took the time to answer
it, would you ever do anything with it?)
Anon5, AZ: Continue and expand, bash
New Age mentality. More issues per year?
How about something about "Birkenstocks
as image not politics?"
I.E., MI: I would like to see you raise
your standards and improve your graphic
design. I'm not saying this because I want
you to become glossy and "glitzy," but
because I want you to continue publishing.
J.U., CA: More issues, longer issues-
though I realize that for an uncompromising
magazine that takes no ads and doesn't have
a paid staff, it's a lot easier to talk about than
Ace Backwards, CA: Everybody at PW
gets big and famous so you can all quit your
dull jobs and become big-time publishing
d'd [id d d d d d d [i [i [i
PROCESSED WORLD 24 • 9
n the fifties, the great national obsession was
Communist subversion. In the eighties, the threat is
more diffuse. There is terrorism, child kidnaping,
drugs, and finally, AIDS. Our present enemies' lack
of concrete human identity only adds to the
circle- the-wagons effect. The outside world is per-
ceived as dangerous, populated by vaguely defined
miscreants who lead nonconformists into moral
debasement. It is the genius of American culture to
promise freedom while representing all but the most
conventional materialistic lifestyles as repulsive.
Choice is restricted not by repression but by the
inculcation of a limited worldview that sees dissi-
dence as deviance.
In a sense, AIDS is different because a major
threat caused by an uncontrollable natural agent
really is lurking out there. Several hundred thou-
sand to several million people, mostly young men,
could well die as the epidemic runs its course, so
we're talking about losses equivalent to a major war.
AIDS' potential impact is indeed substantial, but
it does have definite limits. Among heterosexuals
outside injection drug circles, the disease is little
known, and among lesbians, sexually transmitted
AIDS is virtually nonexistent.
10 • PROCESSED WORLD 24
Nevertheless, how a threat is per-
ceived is paramount to the response to
it, and AIDS has been viewed through
the same jittery lens as has every other
mass panic in the post-War era. AIDS
easily fits into contemporary sexual
insecurities spawned by changing sexual
mores, the breakdown of first extended
and then nuclear families, and the
emergence of women as an economic
force independent of men. Government
officials and conservative ideologues,
with the mass media's help, have had no
trouble creating a new panic by depict-
ing AIDS as a limitless, universal men-
ace brought on by loose living, a
punishment meted out to deviants.
Listen to us, the doctors, politicians and
preachers say in their various languag-
es. Let us lay down a clean, moral path
for you to follow.
Here the evolution of the panic devi-
ates from its usual pattern, for progres-
sives have joined this eager celebration
of AIDS as generalized apocalypse in a
bid to protect gay men from further
ostracism (no one seems to worry much
about the reputation of drug addicts,
who have no political clout). Progres-
sives put forward their own experts to
instruct us on the politically correct way
to interpret the allegedly all-
encompassing threat, and do not hesi-
tate to prescribe safe, proper ways to
alter our sex lives. But you cannot
distort reality for the sake of political
convenience, no matter how laudable
your goals. A politically correct position
must first of all accept the truth, no
matter how uncomfortable that truth
More distressing than this analytical
lapse is that the broader, long-term
issues surrounding the epidemic are
shrugged off, if not given up as lost
causes. These issues revolve around the
question of power: How much control
the individual has over her own body
and sexuality. The proclamations of the
experts from both left and right impede
the grassroots discussion and the open,
positive attitude toward our erotic im-
pulses necessary for curbing AIDS. The
failure of anti-syphilis campaigns to
eradicate that sickness is fair warning
that technocratic programs alone are
incapable of stopping sexually transmit-
The Erotic Fights Back
In the early eighties, human immu-
nodeficiency virus (or HIV, the virus at
the center of the AIDS syndrome)
spread with frightening speed through
the national gay community. Half the
gay men in San Francisco, for example,
had become infected by 1984. A whole
slew of studies have indicated that
receptive anal intercourse without con-
doms and with a casual, changing set of
sex partners provided the main avenue
for HIVs spread.'
Not all gay men by any means
engaged in this combination, but those
who did can hardly be condemned. A
rambunctious sexuality was an import-
ant experience for gays emerging from
years of repression. It played a major
role in building a collective culture
celebratory of gayness, a culture that in
the end had the strength and adaptabili-
ty to control the epidemic once its
dynamics were understood.
In the past four years, HIV transmis-
sion among gay men has plummeted to
almost zero.^ The gay community used
to experience about one new HIV
infection per year for each old one, and
the number of HIV+ individuals dou-
bled every twelve months or less. Now
there is approximately one new HIV
as a positive
by left and rig tit.
infection per year for every 100 old
ones. As people with HIV live far less
than 100 years after infection (whether
they come down with AIDS or not), the
epidemic cannot possibly be self-
sustaining under present conditions.
The number of gay HIV carriers will
gradually spiral down and so eventually
will the number of gay AIDS cases.
Indeed, the number of gay men diag-
nosed with AIDS last year was no
greater than it was in 1987, raising
hopes that the epidemic might already
be leveling off.'
Safe sex educators like to take credit
for this trend, but the situation is not
that straightforward. One major con-
tributing factor is that a large propor-
tion of the 75% of gays nationally who
are not infected* are people whose
personal circumstances never exposed
them to HIV very much. Based on
anecdotal information, comparatively
low-AIDS groups include both young
and older gay men, gay rural residents,
gay men in permanent monogamous
relationships (lasting ten years or more),
and to a certain extent, gay men who
are politically active progressives.
Be that as it may, it is true that in the
gay community, generally, the inci-
dence of anal sex and multiple partners
is down substantially, while condom use
is up.' Nevertheless, changes in sexual
practice have taken place within a
context that is quite foreign to the lists of
proscriptions found in most safe sex
The new sexual climate continues the
celebratory, spontaneous atmosphere of
the old through such institutions as
telephone sex lines, underground sex
parties, jerk-off clubs and erotic mas-
sage. Particular attention has gone into
maintaining open sex lives for those who
are HIV positive. The many AIDS and
HIV+ support groups are vehicles for
establishing friendships and exploring
sexual intimacy within the limits im-
posed by the disease. For gay culture as
a whole, there has been an increased
public emphasis on relationship-
building as part of the sexual experi-
ence. Greater emotional bonding im-
proves cooperation between lovers so
that they act to prevent the spread of
disease from one to the other. It also
tends to decrease the number of sex
partners people have.
With these changes have come sharp
declines in hepatitis B, syphilis, gonor-
rhea and other sexually transmitted dis-
eases (STDs).' This reduction has
further inhibited the spread of AIDS.
STDs' diminishing prevalence not only
promotes better immune system func-
tion—it also deprives HIV of ready
access to infectable white blood cells by
decreasing the frequency of anal and
Still, there remains plenty of unsafe
sex out there. Surveys from around the
country have indicated that a substantial
fraction of gay men continue to disre-
gard sexual risk-reduction measures at
least some of the time. This fraction's
size varies widely from one place to
another, and can amount to half or
more of the local gay population.' There
is also the problem of condom leakage,
found to occur 8% of the time in one
study.' By no means is everyone abso-
lutely protected all the time. But they
don't have to be to stop AIDS. (See
The environment in which AIDS
flourished was alterable precisely be-
cause the necessary changes were not all
that dramatic. They did not attack the
PROCESSED WORLD 24* 11
essence of gay sexuality. The drama
comes from the innovative manner in
which modifications were effected. In-
dividual behavioral changes occurred as
part of a community-wide response to
the crisis. In San Francisco alone, some
80 organizations, most relying heavily
on volunteer labor, are devoted to
various aspects of the epidemic, from
meeting the personal needs of the ill to
building a grassroots political move-
ment. (Despite this community out-
pouring, much remains to be done.
Homeless activists like Bob Nelson of
San Francisco Catholic Charities warn
that 400-600 San Franciscans with
AIDS or ARC have no place to go at
Such personal empowerment is an-
other essential element in the emerging
popular alternative to the health-care
establishment. Both on the streets and in
the hospitals, the experts did not show
much initial understanding of how to
deal with the epidemic. Top-down pro-
grams in which professional elites at-
tempt to serve a client population stand
little chance of adequately taking ac-
count of gays' needs, considering the
unforeseeable complexities of the AIDS
dilemma. Lay participation at every
level has proved vital to obstructing
Overcoming AIDS has become a
form of reaffirmation for the gay com-
munity, a community whose basis is the
very sexuality that has been blamed for
the epidemic. Straight people may cas-
tigate gay life as a wild, empty orgy, but
they should instead admire the culture
that has produced the sense of solidarity
and personal competence needed for a
compassionate, cohesive response to the
epidemic. The response of straights was
hardly so straightforward.
Delusions on Every Side
Two years ago last winter, media
warnings about the onset of a hetero-
sexual AIDS epidemic reached a cres-
cendo. After a decade of experience
with AIDS, however, it should have
been clear that there would not be an
explosive heterosexual AIDS crossover.
The first U.S. citizens recognized as
having AIDS actually were babies born
in 1977 to presumably infected New
York and San Francisco mothers.' The
pattern after 1977 has been consistent:
While AIDS took off among heterosex-
The Ecology of a Disease
An infectious microbe must overcome
three obstacles for sickness to occur.
The first is the hostile outside world:
microbes have to find a way to travel
from one person's body to another with-
out being killed in the process. After
landing, they confront an environment
designed specifically to eliminate them.
The impervious skin and the sticky
mucous membranes covering the body's
inner hnings are formidable physical
barriers that normally ward off invad-
ers. In addition, these protective layers
contain antiseptic chemicals, symbiotic
microorganisms, and white blood cells,
all waiting to kill tarrying pathogens.
For disease transmission to occur, the
pathogen must find some weakness in
this outer line of defense. Given the
several billion years of evolution that
have gone into making himians, there
aren't many such weaknesses. They are
frequently the result of injury, polluted
air, or other illnesses. Never has it
happened that the entire human race
has come into contact with a germ and
that transmission has been automatic
after exposure. Always, a series of
chance events induces susceptibility in a
uals who shared IV drug needles as well
as gay men, the number of straight
people with sexually contracted AIDS
has remained more or less four per cent
of each year's total.
As of May, 1989, the government has
counted a cumulative total of 4,128
heterosexual contact cases. 1,370 of
these were so categorized only because
the people involved came from countries
like Haiti where heterosexual AIDS is
thought to be common. The remaining
2758 (2049 women and 709 men) were
mainly long-term lovers of intravenous
drug users.'* This 2758 figure might
really be an overcount because some
people will not admit drug use or
homosexuality to investigators. It is
noteworthy that New York, as of late
1988, with the largest cluster of HIV-
infected women in the country, had
attributed a mere seven cases of AIDS
in men to heterosexual relations."
The still fragmentary statistics for
HIV carriers do not reveal any surprises
on the horizon, either. First-time blood
donors represent one large, "low- risk"
population segment that is regularly
tested. These donors are testing positive
for HIV at the rate of 0.042%. For all
It is also a rare, talented microbe that
can infect somebody once it gets inside.
There it encounters the human immune
system, which is about as sophisticated
as you can get without conscious, intelli-
gent direction. The immune system is
composed of a set of interacting compo-
nents. Learned, repeatable responses on
the part of white blood cells attentive to
foreign protein (antigen) are an integral
part of the system: specialized chemical
antibodies as well as sensitized "killer
T-cells" are developed that direct over-
all immune activity at persistent intrud-
ers. Antibodies also coat viruses to keep
g hmited subset of the population.
them from sticking to their target cells.
Killer Ts can rip apart cells they recog-
nize as already containing virus.
Nonspecific responses include fever
and inflammatory chemicals, which cre-
ate a toxic environment for bacteria.
Interferon secreted by virus-infected
cells and the killer Ts alerts cells to
make antiviral changes in their metabo-
lism. Meanwhile, the body is infused
with amoeba-like white blood cells wait-
ing to swallow up harmful intruders.
There are 20 to 25 bilhon of these cells
circulating in the blood alone.
If it is the rare combination of microbe
evolution and personal accident that
allows a single individual to get sick, the
odds that conditions are right for an
epidemic are even slimmer. Not only do
some susceptible people initially have to
come in contact with the germ in ques-
tion, but each infected person must pass
the disease along to more than one other
person. Altering conditions just enough
for the average rate of transmission to .
fall below one new case for each old one
will make an epidemic gradually peter
out. This is often forgotten during dis-
cussions of AIDS. Stopping the AIDS
epidemic does not require that every-
one have 100 percent protection.
— Green Fuchsia
LgJ)-g.0.g 9 9 9J».9.9 1> fl 01
12 • PROCESSED WORLD 24
blood donors, HIV prevalence de-
creased from .03% to .01% as previ-
ously infected people were weeded out
of the pool by the testing. In follow-up
interviews, 80 to 90 percent of the
positives acknowledge homosexual con-
tact, IV-drug use, or sex with such drug
users. '^ Considering the understandable
reluctance to give out this sort of
personal information and the number of
testing errors, this suggests that there is
little present HIV transmission outside
gay and addict circles.
The reasons for HIVs limited heter-
osexual spread are undoubtedly rooted
in environmental restraints similar to
those that have slowed its transmission
among gay men in the past few years.
Heterosexuals' usual preference for va-
ginal and oral sex is in itself strong
prevention to AIDS transmission. Even
without using condoms, the odds for
HIV transmission through vaginal in-
tercourse average only one out of a
thousand, and for oral intercourse, the
chances are essentially nil." Both these
practices apparently are much less likely
to spread HIV than anal intercourse is.
In addition, straights generally have
had fewer lovers than gay men. When
the San Francisco Men's Health Study
started to investigate the prevalence of
AIDS among the city's men in 1984,
homosexuals in the 1,000-strong popu-
lation sample had a lifetime median of
200 sex partners whereas heterosexuals'
lifetime median was 20. One indicative
1988 national survey found that 76% of
the men and 85% of the women report-
ed zero or one lover in the previous
year. '* The rate of sexually transmitted
disease has also historically been much
lower among straights than gays. Sy-
philis, whose genital lesions are thought
to promote the spread of HIV, was only
one-tenth as common among heterosex-
uals before its recent reduction among
gay men. (It is very worrisome that the
overall U.S. syphilis rate shot up 25%
in the late eighties even as the gay rate
went down. As usual, the heavily non-
white poor are bearing the brunt of the
It is true AIDS has ravaged straights
in Central Africa, and the apparent
heterosexual transmission there is fre-
quently advanced as a portent of things
to come in industrialized nations. But it
is not unusual for a sickness to behave
one way in Africa and another in the
North. Last year, an especially reveal-
ing paper in the Journal of the Ameri-
can Medical Association'^ described
how marked the difference in medical
circumstances can be and its relevance
for AIDS. The researchers found that
antibodies to such diseases as toxoplas-
mosis, syphilis and hepatitis were com-
mon in both "healthy" equatorial Afri-
cans and American male homosexuals.
The two groups also had matching
immune system aberrations, whereas a
control group of American heterosexual
men possessed relatively unperturbed
immune systems, and had experienced
much less exposure to immune-
compromising microbes. Antibodies to
HIV were present in six percent of the
non-AIDS Africans, 22% of the U.S.
gay men, and none of the straight control
group in the U.S.
Highlighting one aspect of African
underdevelopment, another recent
JAMA study" described how one pedi-
atric ward in Zaire alone was responsi-
ble for at least 600 HIV infections per
year through contaminated blood trans-
fusions. Most of the children were in the
hospital because their malaria had not
received proper initial treatment.
Living conditions in Central Africa
actually are analogous in major ways
with those of U.S. gays and junkies.
This is reflected in the groups' similar
white blood cell counts and record of
sickness. The AIDS crisis typifies how
marginalization makes communities
vulnerable to disease by confining their
members in stressful environments.
Once a microbe arises to take advantage
of their unprotected position, everyone
is susceptible, and the medical and
social resources needed to adapt to the
predicament are not available. Mean-
while the privileged, whose freedom
depends on the restraint imposed on the
others, sit back oblivious, figuring that
the sick "had it coming."
Of course, the obvious response to
this indifference is, "Aha, but you can
get it too!" and it is precisely this easy, if
fallacious, route that progressive-
leaning activists have followed in their
quite justified effort to get the world to
pay attention to AIDS' depredations.
"Only when the nation realizes that HIV
doesn't discriminate will it donate the
resources to fight it," argues Mervyn
Silverman, "We need to mainstream,
but not normalize the disease." Silver-
man is head of the American Federation
of AIDS Research and former director
of the San Francisco Health Depart-
ment. From the left end of the AIDS
movement comes Donna Minkowitz,
who writes in the New York-based
newsweekly The Guardian, "Framing
the issues in terms of 'endangerment of
homosexuals' implies society as a whole
need not be concerned with the fact that
tens of thousands of gay men have
already died of AIDS. . . The question
also willfully ignores the fact that thou-
sands of heterosexuals in the U.S. have
already contracted AIDS. . ." (Here
Minkowitz is willfully ignoring that few
of those thousands of heterosexuals with
AIDS contracted the illness sexually.)
"AIDS is an equal opportunity dis-
ease," trumpets Cindy Patton, who is
Minkowitz's apparent intellectual men-
tor, in the first sentence of the widely
applauded booklet, "Making It: A
Women's Guide to Sex in the Age of
AIDS," coauthored with Janis Kelley.
PROCESSED WORLD 24 'IS
There follows the standard enumeration
of sex practices, from anal intercourse to
water sports, paired with the appropri-
ate latex barrier to use for protection —
condoms, dental dams, surgical gloves
and the like. Patton and Kelly also
include a section on how all this rigma-
role might be eroticized. That is again
standard fare, but the authors distin-
guish themselves by their righteous use
of feminist and nonjudgmental language
to attain the higher moral ground in the
AIDS discussion. Basically what they've
done is to adopt some of the more
radical gay safe sex educational strate-
gies for a wider audience on the theory
that everyone has the same relationship
to the epidemic.
High pressure safe sex campaigns
may have had a role to play in the gay
community. Gay men were faced with
an emergency around AIDS as well as
an alarming upsurge of sexually trans-
mitted diseases in general. Less a formal
campaign from outside, AIDS preven-
tion became a process of self-education
undertaken by a cohesive community
with a sexually celebratory culture. As
we have seen, that group process result-
ed in a considerable elaboration on the
original safer-sex proscriptions. Gay
men working on their own initiative
came up with new sexual practices
which, constraining though they may
be, stopped HIV transmission without
altering gays' overall approach to sex-
uality. "Safe sex" as presented by its
advocates was not by itself a solution to
AIDS, but at least it had the value of
making gays aware that they could
make specific, limited modifications that
would interrupt AIDS' momentum.
But the heterosexual milieu differs
sharply from the gay one. Straights in
no sense form a united community. Not
only are they split between men and
women, but heterosexuality never forms
part of their group identification since
they see it as the norm. The failure to
understand that heterosexuality repre-
sents a series of choices as much as
homosexuality means that straight sex-
ual customs are evolving blindly, with-
out clearly expounded goals or a clear
break with past beliefs. Hetero culture
remains much less open about sexual
matters than gay culture is, nor is it very
supportive of sexual difficulties, espe-
cially those arising from sexual experi-
More directly relevant for the safe sex
question, the physical problems con-
fronting straight sex also vary consider-
ably from those that figure in the gay
world. Straights' major universal prob-
lem is, naturally, unwanted pregnancy.
Generally speaking, sexually transmit-
ted diseases present a troubling persist-
ence, with AIDS in fact a remote threat.
However, some medically indigent het-
erosexual subgroups are menaced by
STDs and AIDS to a much greater
It is not surprising that straights have
not been very responsive to safe sex
advice. A poll in 1988 by the govern-
ment's National Center for Health Sta-
tistics found that nearly 95% of Ameri-
cans quite rightly thought that they had
little chance of getting AIDS and that
only a few percent knew anyone well
who was infected with HIV." Survey
after survey has revealed only small
changes in heterosexuals' behavior. A
San Francisco AIDS Foundation study
of straights released last winter found
condom use up 26% over two years ago
but still fairly uncommon. In a city
where AIDS consciousness is very high,
most respondents nevertheless did not
feel targeted by the epidemic and ranked
"protected vaginal intercourse" low in
On a personal note, San Francisco
sexpert Bernie Zilbergeld laments, "In
all my lecture tours, I've never met a
person who has used a dental dam
twice ... A lot of safe sex workers burn
out fast because there are more failures
Predictions of an AIDS apocalypse
did shake loose huge sums of money
from the previously reluctant state, but
hundreds of millions of the appropria-
tions are being wasted on testing and
educating the wrong people. Needle-
sharing drug users, the heterosexual
group really affected by AIDS, have
been largely ignored. At the same time,
elementary guarantees of the civil and
social rights of HIV carriers have yet to
Research and treatment programs
remain in disarray with the most obvi-
ous therapies taking years to test out. As
Mobilization against AIDS director
Paul Boneberg has declared in the San
Francisco Sentinel, "The government's
plan on AIDS is a strategy of doom . . .
The projections of death, as now ad-
vanced, do not need to occur. . . The
funding goes into hospice care and into
long-term research, because they as-
sume that [the current HIV-infected]
will die. What we're trying to do is put
the emphasis on treatments that can
keep people alive."
At present, the danger is that without
a dramatic rise in heterosexual AIDS or
other sensational news, the public will
tire of the whole AIDS issue, and little
new effort will be put into fighting the
epidemic. Already Randy Shilts has
complained that, "AIDS is out of vogue
as [a] news topic. . . Coverage of the
epidemic is now at its lowest point in
Even as a means of taking the collec-
tive onus for AIDS off gay men, the safe
sex formula for sexual conduct has had a
dubious record. Persons engaging in the
now reprehensible "high risk activities"
are easily linked to the "high risk groups"
14* PROCESSED WORLD 24
in which, as everyone remembers,
AIDS first appeared. An atmosphere of
panic over a putative worst epidemic in
history makes the logic of quarantine, if
not of murder by neglect, seem compel-
ling as a means of self-defense. "Many
health education messages aim precisely
at creating fear of AIDS and feelings of
vulnerability to it. Such messages may
increase support for coercion as well as
foster preventive behavior," warned Dr.
Robert Allard in the April, 1989 Ameri-
can Journal of Public Health. Hence the
anti-gay backlash over AIDS continues
unabated despite all the misplaced em-
phasis on AIDS in the straight commu-
In California, for example, right-
wing authoritarians are parading an
apparently endless series of AIDS pro-
positions before the voters. With meas-
ures like mandatory testing and segre-
gation in the balance, only intense
campaigning has succeeded in defeating
Across the country, reported cases of
gay-bashing are up drastically — with the
official count of course representing
only the visible portion of a horrifying
phenomenon. "AIDS has provided a
green light to the bashers and bigots,"
Kevin Bernill of the National Gay and
Lesbian Task Force told Time maga-
zine last year, "It's a convenient excuse
for those who hate us."
Safe and Sorry
Complimenting the gay community
for having "moved from an ethos of
sexual liberation to one of responsibility
for others," as the progressive film
magazine Jump Cut did when intro-
ducing a section on safe sex, lays bare
safe sex's more insidious implications.
The concept of gays' particular sexual
stigma is countered by resort to a
concept of global sexual irresponsibility,
and all the old sexual bugaboos are
back. The association of sex with disease
and the assumption that others are
inherendy untrustworthy makes sexual-
ity a clumsy business at best, to be
avoided as much as possible. The tradi-
tional dream of constructing a safe
haven with a life-long monogamous
partner becomes a Utopian fantasy.
People cannot cope on their own.
By granting primacy to values like
"safety" and "responsibility," this time
from a medicalized perspective, safe sex
as a moral code places renewed empha-
sis on the role of experts in regulating
sexual expression. The consequent
technocratic ethic is insensitive to the
historical background of its surround-
ings. It focuses on simple issues of
personal hygiene at the expense of the
complex obstacles capitalist society
places in the way of human intimacy.
And by purveying an exaggerated fear
of disease so as to assert their authority,
safe sex proponents inhibit the risky but
necessary sexual exploration needed to
resolve wrenching erotic confusions
made all the more formidable by un-
controlled social change.
Specifics of the extent to which safe
sex rule-makers' intervention becomes
clumsy — and contradictory — are not
hard to find. Last year, Drs. Norman
Hurst and Stephen HuUey of the Center
for AIDS Prevention Studies (a liberal
think tank at UC-San Francisco) made
quite an impression with their article
"Preventing the Heterosexual Spread of
AIDS: Are We Giving Our Patients the
Best Advice?"^' The doctors' starting
point was condoms' 10% failure rate as
a contraceptive, which they assumed
would carry over to AIDS prevention.
They then calculated the risk of HIV
transmission for sexual encounters with
individuals of various sexual and drug-
use histories, comparing the chances of
transmission with and without con-
doms. Displaying one-encounter chan-
ces such as 1 in 500 million (partner
lacking a history of high-risk behavior
and no condom) and 1 in 5000 (HIV +
partner and condom). Hurst and Hul-
ley's probability table indicated that
condoms decrease one's risk of AIDS
only by a factor of ten whereas "carefully
choosing" lovers of low risk provides a
5000-fold increase in protection.
"This means not only asking potential
partners about their present and past
behavior but also getting to know the
person and his or her friends and family
well enough to know whether to believe
the answers. This would rule out sex
with prostitutes, casual sex, and indeed,
much of what many people consider to
be normal heterosexual behavior," the
doctors blithely conclude — as if the
social environment has no part in deter-
mining sexual mores, which can then be
changed with a wave of a magic wand
according to medical concerns!
Hurst, HuUey, and those of similar
PROCESSED WORLD 24 •IS
opinion are criticized by other safe sex
writers for imagining that anyone can
ever be sure of their lover's past history.
But assuming that the heterosexual
AIDS threat is a credible one and the
safe sex devices an appropriate re-
sponse, why do straights use them so
infrequently? Why in fact does high risk
sex continue among gays? Merely pro-
viding information must not in itself be
sufficient to change people's practice.
An emerging target in the struggle to
increase safe sex's popularity is the
combining of drugs and alcohol with
sexual activity. Many studies show a
large correlation between the use of
intoxicants during sex and high-risk
behavior.^' The San Francisco AIDS
Foundation, for one, has begun an ad
campaign suggesting that gay men stay
sober during sex if drugs and alcohol
cloud their judgment. This developing
trend also has its magic wand effect, in
as much as it deflects consideration of
the role getting stoned plays in enhanc-
ing sexual intimacy on both an emo-
tional and physical level. It is hard to see
how intoxicants will be banished from
sex by medical fiat, at least without first
revolutionizing personal relations. That
is something people have to do for
themselves; programs dominated by
professional elites do not allow for the
popular discussion required to articulate
human needs. The current approach of
piling inhibition on top of inhibition
seems destined rather to increase alcohol
and drug use during sex.
The hegemonic moral position safe
sex specialists are appropriating for
themselves does originate in a desire to
protect sexual pluralism. Sexual plural-
ism is not the same thing as sexual
freedom, though. Without that ethos of
liberation so lightly dismissed by Jump
Cut and company, our erotic nature is
straight-jacketed by the preconceived
dominant idea of what's good for us. We
might end up feeling safe, but we most
assuredly will end up feeling sorry, too.
The Author Exposes Himself
But I don't want to end up feeling
sorry, at least not because I succumbed
to repressive rituals based on a phantom
threat. Certainly, there is no need to
scare me to get me concerned about
AIDS. Although I don't feel in personal
danger, I see how much I have to lose
from the retrograde influence AIDS is
having on the long struggle over sexual
And who am I, really, and just what
is it that I see? I'm merely a straight man
who somehow has fallen into a de facto
monogamous love affair of 20 years
duration. I think that life is passing me
by without the wide range of relation-
ships—including sexual ones — that I
need to provide a warm, nurturing and
stimulating environment for my devel-
opment as a human being. Instead of
acting as a source of strength for myself
and those around me, my erotic energy
has been bottled up by socioeconomic
forces that I find myself unable to
I am not alone in this. The monoga-
mous nuclear family has become a mass
ideal only in the last fifty years. Histori-
cally, monogamy has been maintained
by patriarchal domination and econom-
ic necessity. Men and women alike flee
it whenever they get a chance. Now they
say that in the sixties there was a sexual
revolution, but all I see is a change from
lifelong to serial monogamy. We have
wound up with less opportunity for deep
personal relationships. Our sexuality,
instead of .serving to cut through our
isolation, has been twisted as never
before by the still preponderant capital-
ist culture into just another marketing
gimmick. The status quo continues to
hold us in its tight embrace. Ironically,
there isn't even as much opportunity for
actual sex as before since we often don't
have steadily available partners.
They also say that there was the
liberation of women, and there has been
a massive increase in the amount of
wage-earning work women do. Typi-
cally, in societies where women's securi-
ty is independent of their husbands,
divorce rates are high and female sex-
uality is recognized as existing in its own
right, apart from fertility. This is be-
cause patriarchal inheritance lines are
not important, and male possessiveness
has less to do with women's decisions
about their lives. With the separation of
fertility and sexuality comes greater
acceptance of homosexuality, too.
But I see that women haven't even
achieved equality, let alone liberation.
In the parodies of the patriarchal family
model we create for ourselves, domestic
violence and sexual abuse are amazingly
common. Rather than defending the
family from external dangers, male
authority allows men to bring their
tensions into the domestic circle with
oft-times explosive results. At least we
talk about these issues more than we
used to, although we have no way to
Women especially have bitter tales to
tell of betrayal and abandonment when
those fragile family entities break up.
They frequently are stuck raising the
kids alone, and sometimes have to care
simultaneously for their elderly parents.
Support from the kids' fathers and
society at large, which doesn't even pay
women as much as men, is inadequate
to say the least. It is an odd twist of fate
that under the present order "feminism"
has come to imply the "feminization of
Talking about sexual liberation with-
out gender equality is ridiculous. There
is no liberation under m2de supremacy,
only a masculine fantasy about getting
screwed a lot. The concept of more
fulfilling relationships is lost, and the
sexual revolution is stalled in its tracks.
That's precisely what's happened in our
From what I can see, homosexuals are
the only ones who have tried to live
differently in a conscious manner. Their
understanding of their oppression led
them to question the heterosexual
world's basic assumptions about sexual-
ity and to use their own sexuality as a
basis for bringing themselves together.
The degree to which they succeeded is
beside the point: Gays and lesbians are
heroes in the struggle to create a loving
society, and that heroism has never been
properly appreciated by straights. Now
gay men have become martyrs, and
they're dying for all of us. The decima-
tion of gay culture would condemn us all
to continue living lives marked out for
us by capitalism's manipulative materi-
"alist morality. Surely the diversion of
the gay movement's attention from sex-
ual politics to AIDS already is having an
impact on the abortion controversy at its
present critical juncture.
/6 • PROCESSED WORLD 24
As I stumble on to my inevitable end,
I cling to a vision of how it should all be
different, for the acceptance of the erotic
as central to civilization is the hallmark
of a free people. Free people live in a
society without elites. Articulation and
realization of citizens' aspirations occur
as part of a unified group process in
which everyone participates as equals.
In the absence of a ruling class with
established interests to defend, the ex-
ploration of human wants emerges as
the ultimate social function. Of course,
exploring the limits of erotic desire plays
a vital role here.
A free society is antimaterialistic. It is
not enslaved by a work ethic, and
play — above all, sexual play —
constitutes a major form of social bond-
ing, as a means of building intimacy
between individuals and as an affirma-
tion of belonging to humanity as a
whole. There is indeed lots of fucking
— and fucking without regard to the old
bourgeois strictures on gender roles,
monogamy or the unequal assignment
of power. A free society grants the social
significance of this activity and is per
force an eroticized society.
There will always be risks associated
with sexuality. Emotional intimacy cre-
ates the possibility of betrayal of trust
just as physical intimacy creates an easy
pathway for germs, as well as sperm.
The emotional perils are the purview of
morality; the physical ones figure there
only secondarily. A morality of empower-
ment is required that guides people to
act in an honest, supportive way to-
wards one another. Such a moral cli-
mate would enable us to control the
amount of risk we let into our lives and
greatly obviate the physical dangers sex-
uality poses. I'm talking about some-
thing more akin to safe love than safe sex.
Should people get in trouble anyway
— and they will — a free society brings to
bear its best facilities, medical and
otherwise, on what it perceives as a
major communal, not individual, fail-
ure. A disease like AIDS should never
have the chance to spread wildly. It
ought to be contained and overwhelmed
through that concerned and compas-
sionate manner with which empowered
human beings treat each other.
. . . Ach, AIDS. With the advent of
the epidemic, the people most likely to
examine these vistas have retreated.
Desperately building flimsy disease-
based moral codes, they too are pro-
moting human mistrust and self-hatred.
AIDS has dramatically focused atten-
tion on the question: How much risk is
sex worth? And from all corners of the
political map the answer comes; Not
much. Human sexuality has been de-
valued as a positive social force, and the
hazards encountered in its expression
are now considered an immutable part
of its nature, not the inspiration for
radical transformation of human rela-
So weep for me and weep for you,
and weep for us all, every one of us
victims of AIDS. Weep for what is and
what might have been.
But don't get too sad — it might yet be.
In fact, it has to be.
— by Green Fuchsia
Notes for Safe and Sorry
1. For Example: Winkelstein W. et al.,
Sexual Practices and Risk of Infection by the
Human Immunodeficiency Virus: The San Fran-
cisco Men's Health Study, Journal of the American
Medical Association, 1/16/87, pp. 321-25. Kingsley
L. et al., Risk Factors for Seroconversion to
Human Immunodeficiency Virus among Male
Homosexuals: Results from the Multicenter
AIDS Cohort Study, The Lancet, 2/14/87, pp.
2. Winkelstein W., San Francisco Men's
Health Study: Continued Decline in Human
Immunodeficiency Virus Seroconversion among
Heterosexual/Bisexual Men, American Journal of
Public Health, 12/88, pp. 1472-74. Centers for
Disease Control, Human Immunodeficiency Vi-
rus Infection in the United States: A Review of
Current Knowledge, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly
Report, Supplement 6, 2/18/87, pp. 1-48.
3. Moss A. and Bacchetti P., Incubation
Period of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
in San Francisco, Nature, 3/16/89, pp. 351-53.
Perelman D., Drop Likely in Gays' AIDS Cases,
San Fraruisco Chronicle, 3/16/89, p. 1 .
4. Centers for Disease Control, op cit. , p. 41 .
5. Stall R. et al., Behavioral Risk Reduction
for Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection
among Gay and Bisexual Men, American Psycholo-
gist, 11/88, pp. 878-85.
6. San Francisco Department of Public
Health, Sexually Transmitted Diseases in San
Francisco: Changes in Incidence 1984-1988, San
Francisco Epidemiological Bulletin, 4/89, pp. 1-5.
Centers for Disease Control, Changing Patterns
of Groups at High Risk for Hepatitis B in the
United States, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly
Report, 7/22/88, pp. 429-32. Centers for Disease
Control, Syphilis and Congenital Syphilis —
United States 1985-1988, Morbidity and Mortality
Weekly Report, 8/19/88, pp. 486-89.
7. Seigal K. et al.. Patterns of Change in
Sexual Behavior among Gay Men in New York
City, Archives of Sexual Behavior, 12/88, pp. 481-97.
Stall R., op cit. Becker M. et al., Acquired
Immunodeficiency Syndrome and Behavioral
Change to Reduce Risk, American Journal of Public
Health, 4/88, pp. 394-410.
8. Van Griensven G. et al., Failure Rate of
Condoms during Anogenital Intercourse in Ho-
mosexual Men, Genitourinary Medicine, 10/88, pp.
344-6. Similar figures in: Golombok S. et al..
Condom Failure among Homosexual Men, Jour-
nal of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndromes,
1989 no. 4, pp. 404-9.
9. Desjarlais D. et al., The Sharing of Drug
Equipment and the Acquired Immunodeficiency
Syndrome Epidemic in New York City: The First
Decade, in Needle Sharing among Intravenous Drug
Abusers, National Institute for Drug Abuse
Research Research Monogram No. 80, 1988, p.
160-75. (Cited information is on page 166.) Shilts
R., And the Band Played On, St. Martin's Press,
1987, p. 512.
10. Centers for Disease Control, HIV/AIDS
Surveillance, 5/89, p. 8.
11. Hardsfield H., Heterosexual Transmis-
sion of Human Immunodeficiency Virus, Journal
of the American Medical Association, 10/7/88, pp.
12. Centers for Disease Control, Acquired
Immunodeficiency Syndrome and Human Im-
munodeficiency Virus Infection in the United
States: 1988 Update, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly
Report, Supplement 4, 5/12/89, p. 10.
13. Winkelstein, W. (1/16/87), op cit. Kings-
ley L. op cit. Padian N., Heterosexual Transmis-
sion of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome:
International Perspectives and National Projec-
tions, Reviews of Infectious Diseases, 9/87, pp.
947-60. Padian N. et al., Male to Female
Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Vi-
rus, Journal of the American Medical Association,
8/14/87, pp. 788-90. Grant R. et al., Infectivity of
the Human Immunodeficiency Virus: Estimates
from a Prospective Study of Homosexual Men,
Journal of Infectious Diseases, 7/87, pp. 189-93.
Padian N. et al., Male to Female Transmission of
Human Immunodeficiency Virus, abstract
THP.3, Third International Conference on Acquired
Immunodeficiency Syndrome, Washington, DC, 6/1-
5/87, p. 171. Fox P. et al.. Saliva Inhibits HIV-1
Infect'why, Journal of the American Dental Association,
5/88, pp. 635-7.
14. Padian N. (9/87), op cit. (Cited data is on
p. 951.) Centers for Disease Control, Numbers of
Sex Partners and Potential Risk to Human
Immunodeficiency Virus, Morbidity and Mortality
Weekly Report, 9/23/88, pp. 565-568.
15. Quinn T. et al., Serologic and Immuno-
logic Studies in Patients with Acquired Immuno-
deficiency Syndrome in North America and
Africa, Journal of the American Medical Association,
5/15/88, pp. 2617-21.
16. Greenberg A. et al.. The Association
between Malaria, Blood Transfusions, and Hu-
man Immunodeficiency Virus Seropositivity in a
Pediatric Population in Kinshasa, Zaire , Journal of
the American Medical Association, 1 '22/88, pp. 545-
17. National Center for Health Statistics,
Advance Data, 7/11/88.
18. Communications Technology, Designing
an Effective AIDS Risk Reduction Program m San
Francisco. Results from the Second Probability Sample of
Multiple/High- Risk Partner Heterosexual Adults, San
Francisco AIDS Foundation, 10/13/88.
19. Shilts R., Media's Short Attention Span,
San Francisco Chronicle, 1/23/89, p. A5.
20. Hurst N. and Hulley S., Preventing the
Heterosexual Spread of AIDS: Are We Giving
Our Patients the Best Advice?, Journal of the
American Medical Association, 4/22/88,'pp. 2428-32.
21. Stall R., op cit. Valdiserri R., Variables
Influencing Condom Use in a Cohort of Gay and
Bisexual Men, American Journal of Public Health,
7/88, pp. 801-5.
PROCESSED WORLD 24 •17
Otudies have shown that the time a
worker beheves he has to himself during
the work week really belongs to someone
Electrode tests have traced the exist-
ence of an alien authoritarian presence
Snside the average worker's head, par-
ticularly on week nights. This voice
appears to determine the subject's
course of action, which, according to
test results, is highly predictable across-
the-board. For no apparent reason, the
subject will up and leave a movie, a
party, even a steamy moment of pas-
sion, just like that, right in the middle.
In 97% of the cases the explanation the
subjects gave was the same: "/ have to
work tomorrow. "
Further, the latest results have con-
cluded that there is an increase in
phone-calling behavior during the work
week, a dramatic increase in television-
watching and drug-ingesting, paral-
leled by an astounding decrease in
learning behavior, and a strange new
affinity for traffic, collars, ties, high
heels, panty hose and pancake make-up,
even on stifling hot muggy afternoons.
This has led experts to believe that the
time a worker can legitimately claim as
his own is in fact limited to his days off.
Two days a week of life belong to the
average person. 2 x 52 weeks in a year
+ 10 days of vacation-leave + the 9
official holidays equals 123 days of life
per year. Now if one goes to business
school and graduates in four years, as
expected, according to the latest gov-
ernment statistics, and thus works full-
time from twenty-one until a retirement
age of sixty- five, one can count on a
total of 123 x 44 years, or 5,412 days
of life during this period.
In other words, the average "forty-
hour" week worker is alive 5,412 days/
365 days in a year = 14.8273973 years
from the time he is waiting for life to
begin after graduation up until the time
he is still waiting for life to begin not
long before death. Add to that the time
spent in the hereafter, if there is any.
Fourteen years, nine months and a
little over twenty-eight days, plus or
minus one depending on whether one
begins work on a month which ends
with an odd or even day.
Let's round this figure to the fifteen
year mark, because after all, people do
get sick and some actually fail to show
up at work when that happens.
In fact, if you can manage to swing
ten sick days a year and two days off
instead of one on Thanksgiving and
Christmas, you could pull off
16.2739726 years of life. That's a bonus
of almost 1.5 years, and if you are fired
this figure increases dramatically.
There you have it folks: fifteen years
of life, twenty-one spent in purgatory
waiting for this life, twenty-nine in the
inferno, and whatever you have left to
* * *
I will never forget my first and last
encounter with a full-time job. I looked
around the office, my eyes bloody,
weighing heavy on the sockets from too
little sleep, the sinuses dry, the heart
racing from eight cups of coffee guzzled
like a wino. There was everyone: going
about their business, chatting, drinking
coffee, answering phones, walking with
purpose to somewhere or to somewhere
else, never nowhere in particular. Al-
ways the noise of a typewriter or printer
beating away like the hammers and
jjlaners of a monstrous construction
project into whose vortex everyone was
I thought with awe: "They do this all
so easily, so calmly, as if this is normal!"
18* PROCESSED WORLD 24
Then I panicked: "Maybe it is normal.
Maybe there is something wrong with
me. Why am I the only one in the entire
office who keeps looking at that vicious
little clock? Why am I the only one in
the whole world who thinks a terrible
mistake has been made? Is this what life
really is? What happened to all' the long
meditative walks I was going to take like
Henry Miller and William Saroyan,
with night falling and a beer swimming
in my empty stomach? What happened
to the dawns greeted at the typewriter,
all the books I was going to read, the
hostages Carter was trying to release?
Where did that world go?"
Four months passed and 1 decided I
would never do that again. I would
rather clothe myself in polyester and beg
the rest of my days than work.
Many of us have managed to keep
this vow, for the truth is that we don't
really work; we are part-time paper
pushers, we are bike messengers, we are
baby-sitters for the public schools, we
are free-lancers who hop aboard the
payrolls like bandits on the run, jump-
ing aboard freight trains, only to leap off
again at the next destination. The train
screams onward without us in its con-
stant, unrelenting motion to another
Wait a minute. We are not lazy — we
have more important business to attend.
"You should be in school. " "You should be
working. " "You should be moving ahead. "
Ahead? Yeah; right. Ahead for
America, ahead so America can make
its money from us, while we die for
twenty-nine years, while our brains curl
up and rot, while our love for life, our
will to live withers up and dies. We beg
for help. Help me, America!
And sure enough, America will tell
you exactly what you must do to help
yourself, to succeed. School! America
says, School.' Yet they don't want us to
learn. Work.' they say, Work.' Yet Ameri-
ca won't allow us to work, to work at
what we love, to work at what drives us,
which is the most important work of all.
So just don't do it, is all. Fifteen years
of life are commingled with twenty-nine
rotten years of indentured servitude,
like a life-time of frustrated orgasms.
Then you die.
Think about it.
— by Margot Pepper
PROCESSED WORLD 24 •19
Spectacle For Sale
I o amount of television watching
could have prepared me for the job I
have now. I work as a "video researcher"
for Video Monitoring Services of
America (VMS), the video equivalent of
a newspaper clipping service.
VMS tapes the local network affiliates
24 hours a day, every day, plus some
programs from the independent New
York stations, MTV, and major radio
stations. VMS also has branch offices
and affiliates all over the country which
provide access to practically every news
broadcast in America.
Each news program is monitored
daily, which means that the bug-eyed
dungeon dwellers of the company flow-
chart handwrite short descriptions of
every program, with particular atten-
tion to names of products, companies,
and celebrity commodities. Corpora-
tions and P.R. firms use this informa-
tion to evaluate their products' (human
and otherwise) images and to determine
how successfully they are manipulating
My job is to locate the chosen seg-
ment from a prerecorded tape, which is
then given to an editor who copies the
segment onto a blank tape for the client.
My 11p.m. shift begins and I settle
myself before the small cube that pumps
stimuli into my senses for hours each
night. Tiers of VCRs and TVs sur-
round me like an information womb. I
see other flickering images refiected in
my screen, out of the corner of my eye
and everywhere I turn. Essentially I am
an information age peon and have come
to feel about the television the way
industrial age drones must have felt
about their sewing machines or lathes.
Working at VMS, I view electroni-
cally generated information and infor-
mation per se in a way which is
quantitatively and qualitatively differ-
ent from the way media civilians usually
perceive these staples of their existence.
Every day I am confronted with omi-
nous wallshelves overflowing with vi-
deotapes; tangible reminders of the fact
that vast amounts of so-called ephemera
are actually preserved and part of the
collective data pool. My already well-
honed sensitivity to information inun-
dation has also been heightened by my
stints, via the magic of fast forward,
rifling through the image files of the
globe and ingesting highly concentrated
doses of spectacle. The speed, volume
and boundlessness of modern informa-
tion gathering produces a concentrated
version of the barbarism, disaster and
miscellaneous sensationalism that occur
throughout the world every day. What I
see is an exaggeration of an exaggera-
TV news magnifies distant military.
government and celebrity rumblings
and presents them as a series of disjoint-
ed, almost interchangeable, images.
This fundamental media truth is inten-
sified by the ludicrous amount of repeti-
tion I endure. While searching for a
certain segment, I have to pass other
stories which are sometimes repeated
two or three times during a single
broadcast, and I may have seen the
identical stories four or five times before
on other programs. Meanwhile, some-
one near me may be watching the same
story on another channel.
The most memorable repetition gorge
happened the day the space shuttle blew
up. At one point every TV screen in the
small office showed a different stage of
catastrophe (cf Warhol's "Disaster Se-
ries" for another take on repetitious
disaster iconography). Events seen and
seen again and again in this mode
readily dissolve into pure spectacle —
devoid of context, emotional content
My windowscreen on the world is
further mediated by my fingertip con-
trol of the images before me. Forward,
reverse and pause buttons allow me to
-penetrate the seamless flow of "real time"
and toy with TV fodder like image
puppets. The Bud Dwyer tragedy was
especially fascinating because it was
such pure spectacle to begin with.
20 • PROCESSED WORLD 24
Dwyer was the former Pennsylvania
state treasurer who, after he was con-
victed of corruption and was about to be
sentenced, called a press conference and
blew his brains out with a .357 mag-
num. I must have watched this splatter
scene a least 15 times, in slow motion,
fast motion, single frame real time, and
reverse. After several viewings I realized
that the control which I gleefully exer-
cised over this sensational image was not
merely a product of my own morbid
whims, but also an obedient response to
the taped version of the event which
seemed to beg for voyeurism and ma-
nipulation rather than empathy or com-
The relentless barrage of Rehash,
Epidemic, Scandal, and Terror (wel-
come to the R.E.S.T. decade) and
sundry other media chimeras is the
backdrop for TVs real purpose: to
peddle things, services, lifestyles and
images. Most news programs fit .snugly
within this consumerist agenda and
function as extended commercials. Cor-
porations and P.R. firms just utilize the
medium accordingly and VMS provides
the information lubricant for the big
business-media machine. The Tylenol
poisonings provided the company with
its most profitable month ever.
I could go on, but some tawdry pop
icon has a new movie out and a bunch of
people just died of food poisoning so
there's lots of work to do.
— by Adam Quest
The Billboard Liberation Front is
responsible for this . . . correction of a
sign (originally advertising a radio sta-
tion with the slogan "Hits Happen").
Bringing truth to advertising since 1977,
the BLF issued a communique (May 9,
1989) urging the "PAVE ALASKA"
campaign as a step towards our Ameri-
can evolutionary destiny: "In conjunc-
tion with the ongoing natural 'green-
house effect,' we should use this occur-
ance [the oil spill] to open up new op-
portunities for real estate development."
Because Daddy worked where there is radiation,
toxic chemicals and genetically engineered
organisms, his family clung to him as he departed
for work, "It's OK sweetheart, I'll be alright,"
as he released his wife's grip on him. Bending
down to his little daughter, "I'll be back baby,
let go Daddy's leg. You must realize that the
radiation from the check-out counter is harmless,
and the toxic chemicals are all in containers on
the gardening shelf. And the organisms in the
yogurt are perfectly safe." His family reassured,
the box-boy at the supermarket went off to work.
by Roger Coleman
PROCESSED WORLD 24 '21
IT'S 6AM AND YOU CAN'T TAKE A JOKE
I was sleeping off a Kafka novel when I heard a knock at the door.
Alas, it was Claudette, the Belgian drunk, come back for the t.v.
She went into the kitchen to prepare a sandwich: two pieces of
wheat toast and a slice of Kraft headcheese.
She was once the great love of my life, now she wanted the furniture.
I dreamt of poppy fields, burning.
She took her panties down from the showerhead.
I dreamt of Bob Dylan.
I dreamt of learning to love my parents. Of snow in Malibu, CA.
Of a '69 palest aqua used Malibu car we had in '70.
I woke up and there was a blue Fender guitar pick in bed beside me.
1 had what some call a "reality confrontation,"
although 1 had committed no art.
I reread Celine in 45 minutes flat; my entire body . . .
I took a bus to Hollywood, California.
by Paris, Blazey
ROUND AND AROUND WE GO
The girls at the desk discuss sex all night. The big
blonde says she masturbated at age four. My roommate
is in Wisconsin at a fast-food business conclave, seeking
management tips to take back to Tokyo. 1 steal his KOOLs
though 1 hate the taste. When they run out I go to sleep.
The radio plays Bowie or Coltrane. 1 have thirty-seven
cents. A dime will pay the postage due on the money order
my father sent me. It will arrive tomorrow. A miniature
TV flickers on the desk. The girls read a survey question
about sexual positions. The slight blonde can't decide
her favorite. She drags on her cigarette and coughs. The
other offers sympathy.
A French girl comes by to thank me for flowers 1 haven't
sent her. She resembles a young Brigitte Bardot. I cash
the money order and buy Gitanes from the French girl
at the Kiosk. The September Vanity Fair attacks the young
writers it made famous. The radio plays Count Basic
and Suzanne Vega. When the Gitanes run out I go to sleep.
A guy at the desk calls to ask that I stop sending flowers
to the French girl. The shirts my father sent two weeks
ago haven't come. 1 Scotch-tape my right shoe together and
get funny looks from walkers on Union Street. The radio
plays Creedence Clearwater and Wynton Marsalis. Searching
for a smoke, 1 uncover a photo of my roommate with an
enormous topless blonde.
The girl comes by to apologize for confusing me with
thejon who sent the flowers. "Nevermind," I say,
backing into the trash can, almost spilling its cargo
of butts, styrofoam cups of congealed coffee, empty packs.
The girls talk about their past and current boyfriends.
They are not pretty. 1 love the bits of secrets I gather.
It will be hours
before 1 sleep.
by Jon Swift
22 • PROCESSED WORLD 24
GOT THEM OLD FACTORY BLUES
The soggy remains of a pack of matches
which once had written on it
the phone number of what seemed to be
a fairly attractive woman
I ran into yesterday down at Bruno's Bar
now sticks out of my dog's mouth.
I think he's mad because I'm never around
since I started this job.
I wrestle him for it
till the number's mush.
Last week the return address
of a friend's letter disappeared in sweat
in my back pocket. On the weekend
I lost the suitcoat to a borrowed suit
drunk at a wedding. Next day James caught me
sleeping, wrote me up.
Somebody stole my thermos.
Alice, the only woman who's agreed
to be in my presence all year
has dumped me for a schoolteacher.
She said I was always tired or drunk —
she's got me there.
Working seven days a week does that
to a person, I told her.
She came over late one night
when I was drunk with Harry
and commented on my smell:
At least you could shower once in a while.
She got me there.
by Jim Daniels
A good many men are perched
In the early-blooming trees,
Displaying their faith in God.
Other men believe in frost —
Each groan the house gives, the clash
Of icicles in the eaves.
Wolves howling at the moon sing
Of Armageddon to them.
One more man, whom darkness loves.
Tries to rock, runs to the door
Every hour because he hears
A knocking as of women
Marooned on ice floes that crash
Into each other, submerge,
Then smash again while women
Croon. All night, women knocking.
But no one is ever there.
Night was I in a bad mode
it was all middle
seamless without beginning or end
familiar in its disturbing
alltoo elusive way
A slip had me wondering
could I have chosen to lose it?
in the process mislaid the choice
on the tip of my tongue
time of day
Amnesia darts a forked smile
whispers out my ears
brains liquid on the run
sucked clear of color
Chest hurt the devil
I feared it would
the valves were
we were betrayed
More sluggish now
having worn it wet
the loss was knowing
the matter of fact
and thus the future
Hands crawl white knuckle crabs
the silverstudded minefield
bright sockets on the console
without eyes or insight
gleaming dullness lodged in my mind
discolored and soft as sandpaper
soaked in vinegar
Once remarked on the resilience of walls
could they ever keep the night at bay?
insulating the convolutions of fear
The intestinal coil of courage
a seared interior
Alone on my feet
I scrape the dry wafer of words
into a fair approximation
this sequence of loss
by Patrick Worth Gray
PROCESSED WORLD 24 •23
#001 IN A SERES
one thing nearned from the
iVage and blatant J
■ 1. Today our
e« on every s«eet™rne-^.=^^
made of firecra ^^,
you. whUe thousa- ^^^^^^
and did 1
make ^^"'"^^r No "They ap-
pyrotechnician? ^o. i >, ^
plauded. They went oooh
"a^^l'l, r^^pitol is on the job!
OuVrepVesenlatives get ca^n
°c"cep4 (P^te^V 'ej^'S
_ . ., _ _tu;^oi omiivalent oi kick.
cesspool of CO
No, D.C. looks for a dog to kick.
And what is the dog? Art. Or
"Art, art," I suppose. Personally,
I don't think there's ever been art
in this coimtry. But then again, I
don't know much about art, I onJy
know what I despise.
I'll admit that a display of a
crucifix in urine may not be the
best use of federal fmiding, but
neither do I think the salary of
Jesse Helms is a proper use of
got a jar, what do I put in it? A
star of David? Nah. I got it! A
crucifix! I am unique in my crea-
tivity! Now: what to soak it in ?
Perrier? Nah. Milk? Nah. I got it!
My own urine! I'm a true genius!
Me and Monet! Where's my
Of course, I'm mainly bitter
because I want that government
money. And why not? The cruci-
fix in the urine is a wise ass
acting out. I'm a wise ass. Give
me the money.
"Hold on there, mister," you're
saying. "What about this Robert
Mapplethorpe deal?" Look on the
bright side. This "controversial"
display of photographs has given
editorialists the opportimity to
use the word "homoerotic" in
their essays. It's allowed mu-
seum-goers to see the private
parts of men in three-piece suits
— something I've never seen be-
fore. Jesse Helms is worried that
this will be offensive to "...
religions and non-religions." I
don't know what this means, and
I don't care. I don't care if it
Have I ever cut off the fimding of
swer is No.
So what if kids see the private
happen upon a display of "hom-
oeroticism"? Well gosh, folks, we
take kids to the zoo all the time.
profit funds are being used to
fund bestiality? No. We chalk the .
whole thing up to biology, and \ ,
move the kids on to the pettmg
zoo. , J
That's why I have a few mod-
est suggestions to solve this art
pointment of an Arts Czar. 1
recommend somebody who does
not know anything about art. m |
much the same way William Ben-
nett, our Drugs Czar, doesnt
I volunteer. , . . ^u
Suggestion #2: Eliminate the
word "art" from our vocabulary.
Then we won't have anything to
worry about. For "art," substi-
tute the word "news." Nobody ;
cares if there are offensive items
on the news— we accept it as
part of the glut of information so
necessary for a wise citizenry.
No more performance art—
now it's performance news. No
more fine art, now it's fine news.
No good art or bad art, just good
news and bad news.
"Say did you see the Mapple-
thorpe exhibit at the News Mu-
"That was bad news.
This will solve so many prob-
lems. Because everybody says,
"Yes, but is it art?" and nobody
' says, "Yes, but is it news?"
Suggestion #3: Surrender
Dorothy! Go ahead. Throw out
the baby, the bathwater, every-
thing, and give up. Let us aU, as
Americans, adopt the Jesse
Helms System of Aesthetic Ap-
preciation (JHSAA). Using the
Jesse Hehns criteria, only the
following things will be consid-
Elvis on Velvet
Jesus on Velvet
• Dogs in Funny Clothes
• American Gothic
• Mono Lisa
• Quilts ,
• Littie Fuzzy Puppies and
Kitties with Big Eyes
• The HostUe Takeover
Bumper Stickers, and Mes-
— Merle Kessler
Robert Mapplethorpe, lately
dead, is a widely respected pho-
tographer in the mainstream art
world, as documented by the
many glossy books of his works.
Unfortunately, the Corcoran Gal-
lery of Art in Washington. D . C . ,
decided to take it upon itself to
practice self-censorship, cancel-
ling Mapplethorpe's upcoming
exhibition of controversial photo-
graphs. They were afraid of pub-
lic reaction, or more likely, a
brisk and improving visit from
the thought police. Mapplethorpe
has a thing for genitalia, homoer-
otic works and sadomasochism.
Okay, so we've established that
he's a cool guy. And if he were
still alive we'd take him aside and
say, "Bob, chill out, man, try
some pastels, and camouflage
those genitalia in landscapes.
Maybe palm trees. You know,
Alas, palm trees would not
escape the watchful eye of that
protector of us all, that watchful
arbiter of good taste and part-
time cuddlebimny of third world
dictators. Senator Jesse Hehns of
North Carolina. Jesse may or may
not know art, but he knows what
he doesn't like, and what you
shouldn't either. He definitely
has a problem with Mapple-
thorpe. He has such a big prob-
lem with Mapplethorpe that he's
pushed a bill through the Senate
which calls for withholding Fed-
eral fimds from works of art
(such as major exhibitions) that
"promote, disseminate or pro-
duce obscene or indecent materi-
als, including, but not limited to
depictions of sadomasochism,
homoeroticism, the exploitation
of children or individuals en-
gaged in sex acts; or material
which denigrates the objects or
behefs of the adherents of any
religion or nonreUgion." A scant
two senators had the guts to
stand against the bill.
Jesse proves he's a forward
planning guy, which is why he's a
senator, by having the catchall
phrase "including but not limited
to." This can conveniently be ,
expanded to cover anything Jesse
and his buddies haven't thought
of. but which might pop up later. ,
It's a difficult life being a conser- L^
vative watchdog, because those »
perverts are nothing if not inge-
nious. „ ^ ,
Note the clause "adherents of
any religion or nonreUgion,'
which could conceivably be used
to limit one's God-given right to
make fun of anyone at aU. The
Ayatollah must be thanking
brother Jesse from his grave for |
helping to make the United States
unfriendly territory for the blas-
phemer Sahnan Rushdie, the Sa-
Many artists, writers and film
makers are dependent upon
grants from corporations and
whether they like it or not. Hehns
bill not only throttles artists, it
imprisons anyone who likes art
by limiting what they are aUowed
to see. Say what you want, but
we'U make sure no one can hsten.
One step closer to the thought
Of course, money will make
you free; art produced by recog-
nized greats such as DaU. Ma-
tisse. Calder and Kiefer is tightly
controUed by those who hold
huge amounts of money: This art
is basically an investment and its
worth is measured in terms of
monetary fluctuations. Artists of
this stature, if they are still alive,
i are able to attend gala private
receptions in their honor given by
the financial elite of the world.
Lesser artists may be servmg as
chauffeurs or bus boys for these
Beginning in the mid-19608, art
^^^ produced in the U.S. began to
< command higher and higher
prices. The artists of the 1970s
k tried to combat the engulfing
1. economics oiF the art market by
such as earthworks, or art that
was very transient; such as ob-
jects made of materials that
would not last long, like rubber,
or objects that were easily repro-
ducible so that the process of
actually making it was more im-
portant than the object itself.
Using these tactics it was hoped
no one could purchase art as a
potential investment. Artists also
began using their own bodies as
, art pieces. However, collectors
began collecting the tiny artifacts
used by these artists on their
bodies as sacred rehcs, which
could then be traded for larger
and larger sums of money.
I Some artists left on the out-
skirts of society may indulge in
certain practices that are
frowned on or possibly made
illegal by the rest of society.
These may or may not include
various drugs, "perverted" sex
acts, random violence and/or
chronic laziness at work. This
must be looked at as enhancing
the freedom of expression and
creativity so essential to an art-
ist. Artists are also free to abuse
their bodies in whatever ways
they see fit. Artists tend to lean to
self-destruction. Legislation may
be under way to protect the rest
of society from some of these
non-normal behaviors or inter-
When I used to watch televi-
sion (it may be presumptuous of
me to assume you care), I enjoyed
watching the painting shows on j
PBS. Not the water color shows;
they were too simple and light.
No. I would sit enraptured as a
hippie burn-out or old German
smeared fecal oil paint around on
big palettes and slashed down
washes and then really began to
put the paint dovm. They always
had cute little scenes, usually
outdoors. They knew exactly ''*
where to put the shadows and A
highlights to make the surface of
the paintings dance with the re-
alistic portrayals. They enjoyed. I
or seemed to enjoy, painting
these things. It was an artistic '
Valium. I could really use one
— Gregg Nokonishi g
and Ann Henry. K
Art? What Art?
In the spring of this year we mailed a
pair of surveys to our subscribers; the
first dealt with P. W. itself (see pages
4-9). The second solicited material
dealing with "art" (see sidebar).
The survey generated an alien (be-
low), as well as a substantial number of
responses (31 to date) in a variety of
styles. Responses came — with some
overlap — from writers and poets (in
different mixes and shades), musicians
(including a tape of electronic music in
lieu of a written response), photogra-
phers, visual artists (mail art, painting,
computer art, technical illustrating,
etc.), an installation artist, cartoonists, a
woodburner, an editor of a music 'zine,
and a ceramic production type with
interest/experience in architecture and
performance art. Non-artists who re-
sponded include a labor organizer, a
person in the art publishing world
("almost as bad as being an art teacher"),
a computer programmer, an "informa-
tion organizer," one incoherent and one
"Dumb! Dumb!" response.
We heard from Seattle WA.(2 peo-
ple); Minneapolis; Portland and Scotts
Mills, OR.; Tempe AZ.; the S.F. area
(7), Los Angeles, San Diego, Folsom
prison, Sacramento (2), and San Cle-
mente, CA.; Oneonta, New York City
(2), and Brooklyn, NY.; Chicago, IL.;
Warren, ML; Philadelphia, PA.;
Brookline and Allston, MA.; and Fort
In this issue we are leading off with an
essay from Mark Burbey, and with the
centerfold material on Jesse Helms' art
appreciation society. We will be pub-
lishing the results, and our reflections
there-on, in issue #25.
We welcome contributions from
others, or extensions of previous mate-
rial, as well as your responses to what is
published here. So, again, we got your
material; we appreciate it; your efforts are
not in vain. Stay tuned . . .
We'd like to thank, in addition to
Mark Burbey, Mari Bianca, Trixie
T-Square, D.S. Black, and the local
"Art Strike" group (even if they don't
— P. Morales & the collective
creative process to be at odds with the
job? Any comments on Mammon and
the Muse? Do you earn more than you
spend on your art?
3) What are problems that you face?
(For some this might include finding
space to work in, for others the problem
might be more one of finding people to
work with. Perhaps the inability to find
galleries willing to support them (spon-
sor? rip-off?) might be a major problem,
while for others it couldn't matter less.)
Any ideas on ways to deal with these?
Any health hazards in your work? Any
4) What's the point of it all? What is
the role, if any, of the audience (if such a
5) To what extent do you cross the
traditional boundaries that delimit your
field? Are there any? What sorts of
projects have you whimsied about?
6) What's influential? Anything from
outside of your "field"? (i.e., if you paint,
is there some poem or music that has
had a particular influence?)
7) Do you consider yourself political?
Does that reflect itself? How? What turns
you off in political art?
8) What's your favorite fraction?
Processed World wants to publish a
view of your practice? Or does it? (Just as selection of the responses, both written
some computer programmers, say, are and graphic, so if you have problems
hackers who delight in the work, there with our use of anything in print, you
are others who just do it as a living, and should indicate so on your response. If
yet others who've been forced to choose you want to be known by a real name,
between craft and job.) or a pseudonym, please tell us (other-
How much of "you" ends up in your wise we'll probably just use initials). We
work? How do the limits make them- will use appropriate material in issue
selves known? Do you ever find the #25. Questions? Write (or call)!
These questions are designed to study your
planet's most puzzling activity: Art. To that
end, we'd like you to tell us about art and
how it is done. Don't treat us as simple-
minded morons, but you should try not to
make assumptions about what is obvious.
Unlike a "test," this has no right answers.
We are interested in particular in personal
experiences, and discussions and explorations
that draw on them. We would rather have a
poem, a drawing, or a short story than a
forced or tortuous response that answers the
questions literally. We are studying art, not
geography. These questions may be thought
of as a focusing lens, rather than definitive
demarcations of subject material. You may
make up your own questions for extra credit.
A "Tale of Toil" would be most welcome.
1) Are you now, or have you ever
been, an artist (within a broad definition
of the word)? If so, what sort: (perform-
ance, visual, pen & ink, poet, whatever
. . .)? How long? (yeah, we know, all
your life, but maybe you can give some
idea of the amount and quality of time
spent at it.)
If you aren't an "artist," do you
perceive an element of "art" in your
work (or in other endeavors)? For in-
stance, engineers, mechanics, carpen-
ters, etc., while not really "artists"
(except perhaps in their spare time),
often utilize or see an artistic aspect in
2) If you make your living at some
form of "art," how does that affect your
Please respond to:
The Hubert Humphrey & Curtis LeMay
Art Appreciation Society
c/o Processed World, 41 Sutter St., #1829
San Francisco, CA. 94104 U.S.A.
AM v/GHP-V HOA2-/VJV
p^A^ O^T-FT^ S/^^VO:.
M€ cfj TO o-nrei2~
26 • PROCESSED WORLD 24
Iff MP^'-'Why We Live
Being vs Nothingness
IN othing has any intrinsic meaning except that which
we, as individuals, put into it; filling the void, as it were.
Some people live merely to feed, mistaking body func-
tions for signs of life. I live for art, good or bad, whatever
art may be.
By v^ay of introduction, let me say that I am a writer,
first and foremost, although I don't feel that the label of
"writer" fully covers it. I feel that I am a person of the arts
in that I am compelled to write by the same impulses that
compel a painter to paint or a composer to compose.
When I write, I write fiction and non-fiction, essays and
poetry, film scripts and comic books, taking each as
seriously as another. My essential sources of inspiration
are emotion and observation; real life as opposed to
escapism or fantasy. I ultimately hope to make films,
although going to Hollywood is the last way that I would
consider going about it, preferring to make small films
that tell realistic and human stories.
In lieu of that, I am currently editing and contributing
to a magazine titled Street Music, a publication of
serious, adult-oriented comic book stories that revolve
around real life characters and subjects instead of
costumed heroes battling costumed villains over the fate
of the universe. I approach comics writing in the same
fashion as I would approach filmmaking, insofar as one is
telling stories with words and pictures. Comics and film
have their own inherent differences, yet one is able to use
a sequence of comic book panels as if they were film
frames, creating illusions of time and motion. The goal of
Street Music, however, outside of affording me a place to
publish my own stories and those of like-minded artists
and writers, is to demonstrate that comic books are a valid
form of literary expression and worthy of an adult
For the purpose of this essay, I should also point out
that I am earning only a meager honorarium as editor
and main contributor to Street Music. The magazine is a
labor of love and art and I perceive it as a showcase that
may well lead to other things. I am able to attract "big
name" associate contributors and I'm able to offer
exposure to newcomers, but the print run of each issue is
fairly low and the page rate is even lower, resulting in a
decision to relinquish the entire page rate to the artists
with whom I collaborate.
Let me stress, too, that comic books are not my sole
venue as a writer, and that I make no distinction in terms
of what form my writing will take; the material itself
makes that critical decision. Ideas tell the author what
form they need to take if they are to be adequately
expressed. Instead of sitting down with the notion of
writing a poem and then looking around for something to
write a poem about, I allow a given idea to present itself
as a poem, or a short story, or a novel, or a comic book,
or a film. That's the only way to work, because anything
PROCESSED WORLD 24 '27
else is like trying to force that square peg into a round
hole and the writer ends up marking crucial decisions for
absolutely the wrong reasons. Just as it's artistically
spurious to gear one's work to a specific market when the
sole consideration is a higher rate of pay — artistic
integrity and honesty require motivations beyond the
financial — it makes no sense to write a short story instead
of a comic book story simply because the writer thinks he
can sell it to The New Yorker instead of Street Music.
One can write for both markets, but the story should
decide where it wants to live, and the writer should resist
making such limiting distinctions between one form of
writing and another.
At the same time, expecting to earn a living— even a
handsome living— with one's art is not a crass prostitution
of that art, but rather, a necessary and valid expectation.
I've been writing for numerous small magazines since
1970 and, as anyone who has written for small magazines
knows, there's no way one can earn a livable wage
publishing on this scale. Consequently, I am currently
attempting to break into the pages of some of the larger
newsstand magazines — the slicks — with the idea of mak-
ing more money while continuing to write about subjects
that genuinely interest me. I refuse to write about such
nonentities as Robin Givens or Sean Young, but I will
happily write about Crispin Glover or Martin Scorsese
because they are individuals who personally interest me
and who deserve to be written about.
And that, I believe, is the distinction between honest
writing and mere hackwork for the masses. It's the
difference between Saul Bellow and Judith Krantz. Both
sell a lot of books- although Krantz most assuredly sells
more by virtue of the masses' voracious appetite for
witless, escapist, dream-feeding blather — but Bellow
genuinely earns his readership because he writes from the
heart while Krantz writes for the benefit of her real estate
Art is certainly used to sell products, and art is often
hammered into marketable shapes a la Leroy Neimann
and Peter Max, but art exists for the expression and
salvation of human emotion. Mankind, on the other
hand, has no genuine reason to exist and serves no
genuine purpose. The value of human life is based solely
upon the finite duration of it, while art serves to make
that brief duration bearable. Art is what has given my life
substance and direction since childhood.
Before arguing with me (or mentioning God), think
about it. The earth would be far better off if there were no
people on it, and if the earth were to suddenly disappear,
the only repercussion would be the possible collapse of our
tiny, nine-planet solar system. And so what if that
happens? I'm not saying that it wouldn't be a drag from
our personal point of view, but we wouldn't be here to
worry about it, so what would it matter . . . really? Who
and/or what would it affect?
It all means nothing, but in saying so, I'm not
suggesting that humankind should surrender to the
meaninglessness and commence with the raping and
pillaging, or that we should all just start blowing our
heads off, but rather, that by virtue of its brevity, life
should be held in the highest regard and lived to its
Suicide isn't necessary; death will be here soon enough.
That's all the meaning one should need in life. Whenever
28 • PROCESSED WORLD 24
I'm afraid or reluctant to do something, I remind myself
of this. "You could be dead tomorrow, so what's there to
be afraid of? Just do it, whatever it is. Just do it . . . nowV
So I do it. It works very well, this simple reminder, and
it keeps me moving forward, taking nothing for granted.
In a 1964 interview, the late novelist Nelson Algren
said, "Happiness is a relative thing. It implies some kind
of meaningful work, and meaningful work is in short
supply. I don't think there is any meaningful work outside
of the arts."
My sentiments exactly, but one needs to eat, if only to
continue working in the arts or elsewhere, and that's
where the eight-to-five gig comes in. Unless one is lucky
enough to have reached a level to be able to live on the
money generated by art work, one is forced to either seek
some form of governmental assistance (something I won't
do) or accept the fact that until such a level is attained,
submission to full-time or at least part-time employment
Not a pleasant scenario, but neither is living on the
street. Some artists find a pleasant medium by working in
a graphics studio or for a magazine or publisher, but in
my case, even this proved to be less than satisfactory. In
working for a comic book company outside of Philadel-
phia several years ago, I had to resign myself to the
opinion that the majority of the comics they published
were titles that I barely wanted to read, let alone edit.
But, hell, it was professional, and a month after joining
the company as an editorial assistant, I thought that I was
finally on my way and that I'd never again need to accept
a normal job. By the third month I realized that the job
was as normal as any other, and the minor detail that the
editor-in-chief was given to insulting, screaming fits
didn't help. Six months after moving myself to this small
town of industrial vapidity, I was relieved of my duties
(i.e., fired) and then happily winged my way back home
to San Francisco.
Prior to moving east, I'd spent four years working
around the city as a picture framer — as close to the arts as
working in a record store is to the music business — but it
was the exhaustion of my patience with this so-called
trade that sent me running to the East Coast in the first
place, so I opted to capitalize on my office skills and
joined the "temp" force. Temping is ideal for a person
who hates interviewing for jobs and filling out applica-
tions and waiting for telephone calls that never come. It
also affords one the opportunity to take a few days off if a
magazine deadline is impending or if one is putting the
final touches on a gallery opening, or whatever.
In .my case, temping led to a full-time position with
Wells Fargo Bank, where I currently work as a Records
Administrator. Actually, the job and the attendant title
were created specifically for me after I'd worked in Real
Estate Negotiations as a file clerk for several months. I've
been with Wells Fargo for nearly three years and
appreciate the fact that, for a white collar job, my position
suits me very well and allows me enough room to be
myself and to do my job without needing to conform to an
excess of soul-selling corporate attitudes. I'm able to listen
to music while I work (thank Christ!) and I'm making
more money than I ever have in my life (although I still
can't afford a one-bedroom apartment).
There is also something to be said for the exposure to
life one gets from working in the real world; any artist
interested in portraying human reality needs to have had
a solid, first-hand taste of it. In the final analysis,
however— despite the acknowledged benefits of standard
employment — I wouldn't be able to handle it without the
writing to go home to. Without the art I would be
My biggest problem now is that, in producing a
magazine on a bimonthly schedule and trying to write for
other markets, I feel as though I have two full-time jobs,
and after working all day at one job, I often have little
energy remaining for the second. When an article or a
review or a story or an essay is absolutely due, I can apply
myself during the evening hours and produce good work
and turn it in on time, but I generally find that I'm at my
best in the early morning. Perhaps I could find a job
working afternoons or evenings, but I don't feel like being
a security guard or working in a warehouse or a
The dichotomy here is that while my present job suits
me and sustains me, it also impedes my progress as a
writer. I have to wonder how much better my work would
be, or how much further along I would be in terms of
contacts and published credits, if I wasn't forced to divide
my time and my energies in this dissipating fashion.
Working full-time interferes with an artist's ability to fully
perceive himself as such, consuming the time one needs to
stare out windows and dream and process ideas and
incubate half-formed concepts.
The key to enduring any job has always been, for me,
the feeling that it wasn't forever — that eventually I'd have
that breakthrough and be able to earn a livable wage with
my writing. But during the years of striving and waiting
and valiantly maintaining faith and optimism, the artist is
relegated to the life of a dilettante, a mere hobbyist, and
I've never much liked the basement quaintness of
My dream since childhood has not been for material
wealth or luxury, but for the time when each day would
be mine to spend writing, reading, thinking . . . living life
as it should be lived. The aforementioned faith and
optimism that success is impending remains, and my
dream since childhood is unchanged.
A poem by the late Raymond Carver tided "His
Bathrobe Pockets Stuffed With Notes," published in 1986
in the first issue of a literary magazine called Caliban and
included in the posthumous collection titled "A New Path
to the Waterfall", was the apparent culmination of
seemingly unrelated yet intriguing notes the author had
written to himself over however long a period of time.
The second to last note reads: "I've got — how much
Sadly, Raymond Carver had only two years to wait
before receiving an answer to his ponderous and
not-so-hypothetical question. Perhaps he had a certain
premonition regarding his fate, because the final note in
the poem reads: "Enough horsing around!"
Nothing more needs to be said.
The clarity of perceiving life as a match that may be
blown out before the candle is lit precludes any need for
the drug of religion or the delusion of purpose. Even more
important is the inevitability that once lit, the candle only
burns so long, even if it manages to burn fully to the
bottom, leaving us with only the self-advice of Raymond
"Enough horsing around!"
—Mark Burbey with many thanks to Angela Bocage.
PROCESSED WORLD 24 '29
Spooky Days of the Wide-Eyed
Foolish, I always thought, foolish
big-time to poke the laity with a plethora
of futures, to rouse their pustulant lives
to seepage with these promises and
recommendations. . .
But Mary for the hundredth time
thought I was way off base. You never
know, she was thinking, who's going to
rupture our standards. We list zdready.
The president is losing foot, the gar-
bagemen are screaming in the night, it's
all so internal and dense. . . How else
to safeguard the stuff of our poetry and
of our souls, our fucking souls, than to
learn? Learn learn learn? So we can
help the president and through him
But learn what? I wondered. Learn
about extrication of men? Of oneself
from the state? Lacking the state, what
have most men got? Minus birth even
less. "Escape your birth" — one cringes in
embarrassment. There's nothing to
learn, it just hurts too much. Give it
Mary was getting angry and her
thoughts grew jumbled. They can't read
our minds, you know. They sit in their
chairs and fret because they just don't
know what's going on anymore. Could
be anything, riflery, non-standard
cookery, henchmen, the bizarre. . . We
could be unstable in our traps, we could
wreak mongo bad on the funnybone, we
could die alone . . . Don't you feel the
winds of anarchy? We have to learn.
Imagine if no one at all knows what's
going on. Imagine the AIDS. I mean,
collectivity isn't working. Collectivity!
Maybe in a hundred years, two
hundred, we'll be able to sit and spud
out, but now it's erudition, honey, it's
major lurching for the lobes.
Ach. I was too tired for this work.
The individual was all that mattered.
iO • PROCESSED WORLD 24
Things weren't going to fall apart. The
president had his information and the
rest was smooth. The tabloids were
exploiting us, making us think every-
thing needed us so we'd buy more and
more fold-out fret-antifret pills. Maybe
in a hundred years, two hundred, the
newspapers could be trusted, but for
now it had to be all common sense. Sure
it was a little dense, a little dark, a little
spooky each one sitting alone with his
life not knowing much. . . Men's minds
were awry with their openness. It was
the gooey dark of it that made the
tabloids, which were run by people as
fuzzy-minded as the rest of us. People
wanted to join up and be concrete.
One couldn't disarm, or detoxify, or
burn the books. It was all done. If there
were a way to sever one's own head, the
cause and center of the new freedom, it
would be the most popular thing among
the reasonably mature. Mary would be
a statistic in a few years. The next
generations would consist of those peo-
ple like me who had once found the act
of watching television inexpressibly
soothing in its seep of ruthless optimism.
MUSING ON THE CHANCE OF UNHERALDED DESTRUCTION
the ozone is deep and impenetrable the earthquake
is just around the corner the quagmire and its highway
errant signposts a deliverance like a gospel song
nothing really happens an old thought
it's RUN AROUND SUE
the decades are collapsed into something thin as a dime
america is still standing though not so old as the
kingdom of saxony
mutton-chop whiskers crystallized on the last holy roman
the context is lacking I move unpaced through the masterworks
reciting and memorizing each word and line
the last words for a poem on the theme of CACA MADRE recur to me
even as my infant home is hurtled back to earth by a televised
the same magazine which rejected my finest efforts the bay laps
its own scum in pride the waters rise around my knees
in the repeated nightmare of mopping up the residual discourse
tongue is rent from root
Criseyde will advertise loss of virtue
commitments to the gross epicure of the twentieth century
agronomics space-works apologetics for atomic dabbling
laboratories polemical disputes robes of the erudite
My Blue Heaven Morning Glory Seeds
I am hiding in the plumbing
the jazz is turned off nothing cold nothing hot
europe has just escaped from the asiatic flu
where are you?
on her universal juke-box MADONNA tells me I'm an Angel
we're going riding on the freeway of love in her pink cadillac
unresolved promises of the american dream in her lap
film-works words of the unconscious masters of symbolism
conditions of an enervating and endless turn of the Century
desolated by the peak experiences
reduced to ocean floors
one half mile below the raging waves of fortune
with difficulty midnight texts ON OLD AGE as if to gain comfort
before the day is done before the Big One hits
by Ivan Arguelles
Mary left. I fixed a funny sandwich
and laughed as I ate it. The upstairs
tenant stomped three times and I
laughed some more, then stified myself
in a pillow. Sometime in there I kicked
the cat, who bit my leg, which twitched
in pain and kicked the cat, who ran. I
invented the symphony orchestra,
which received a major grant from the
president. That humane entity was my
friend for sure.
PROCESSED WORLD 24 'H
Three Supreme Court judges die within months of each
other and a conservative president appoints three new
In a revolutionary court decision murderers are to be
executed by the State in the same way they killed their
victims: chloroformed and then beaten with a steam iron. Or
clubbed with a baseball bat, poisoned with cyanide-laced
aspirin, pushed off a high-rise. All under police supervision.
Public opinion polls prove favorable to the new order. The
State increases its arsenal: fireplace pokers, axes, an
assortment of rocks, guns, knives and explosives. In a
colorful burst of patriotism concerned citizens donate much
more than can be stored. Chain saws, garden tools, land
deeds to deep holes and steep cliffs.
The president goes on T. V. "No more gifts until we use up
what we've got. We'll be in touch."
Meanwhile, dozens of prisoners on death row are stabbed,
strangled and bludgeoned, crushed, exploded and deprived
of oxygen. Some punishments prove rather difficult to
administer: a drowning in a lake after being pushed from a
motorboat, choking on a passkey hidden in a poor boy
sandwich, starved to death in a basement crawl space,
pushed out of a commercial jetliner; the list is insufferably
32 • PROCESSED WORLD 24
It takes only months before the ho-
micide rate plummets considerably.
Cities become safer, people breathe
easier, a sigh of relief that something has
been successful in deterring what had
been a spiraling, out-of-control nation-
wide problem, as well as a disgrace.
Simply put, few people want to die the
same way they killed someone. Finally,
for the first time, the death penalty is a
deterrent for potential murderers con-
sidering a toss of the hatchet or a plunge
of the ice pick.
Biblical supporters claim they've fi-
nally been heeded. An eye for an eye, a
tooth for a tooth. The new court
decision fits their agenda perfectly.
Church membership increases.
The new death penalty is not praised
by all; far from it. There's a large
coalition of feminists, homosexuals and
white collar liberals that vehemently
oppose the passage, enactment and
consequences of the new legislation.
They say the State should set an exam-
ple, an ideal, rather than imitate and
cater to the lynch mob mentality.
The opposite sides of the debate come
to a confrontation in the trial of Julius
Guarna, accused of killing a woman
while playing Ping-Pong. He slammed a
shot that hit her in the eye, causing
unstoppable hemorrhaging which
turned into a stroke which eventually
crippled and then killed her. How can
the State replicate such conditions? It
would be nearly impossible to have the
ball strike his eye and knock him dead in
a similar fashion. Besides, the defense
claims, it was an accident.
And thus begins a formidable court
challenge to the new death penalty. It's
argued that conditions for the execution
must be exactly the same in every detail
as the murder itself, or else the State is
not properly enacting its own laws. Not
only the weapon involved, but the
location, the conversation and the time
of day must be faithful to the original
circumstances. They remind the Bible
supporters: "We want an eye tooth for
an eye tooth, not a bicuspid for an
incisor or a front tooth for a molar."
The president goes on T.V. "Now
look what you've done. You've ruined
During the tri2il, Julius Guarna ad-
mits that not too long before the fatal
Ping-Pong match he'd been mad at his
opponent and was definitely playing to
win, no question about it. In fact, he
testifies: "I wanted to really slaughter
her because the time before she beat me
His lawyer winces and puts his head
on the table.
The court rules that Julius Guarna
will have to be slaughtered in a similar
Ping-Pong professionals from the
People's Republic of China, already
booked for some exhibition matches on
the west coast, are paid a little extra to
participate in the Julius Guarna case.
They are instructed to volley with him
until the opportunity seems right to
launch a fierce slam directed towards his
eyes, either one will do.
Foul! Protests are almost immediate.
For one, the opposition insists that a
woman be Guarna's opponent, just as
his victim had been, but then the
opposition splinters somewhat— some of
them claiming that since Guarna, a
man, had killed someone, a man should
also kill him in turn. The opposition
The president goes on T.V. "As a
youth I, too, played a game remarkably
similar to Ping-Pong."
For hours on end Julius Guarna is
forced to stand at the Ping-Pong table.
His face, neck and shoulders are pock-
marked and bruised by all the hard
shots. Both of his eyes have been hit,
repeatedly, but not directly enough to
cause the hoped for damage and subse-
Once the opposition regroups they
insist that Julius Guarna should not be
playing players who are so much better
than him. After all, he wasn't that much
better than his victim. Plus, they claim,
none of the proceedings have any valid-
ity unless conditions are exactly the
same as during the moment of the
accident, which, they insist, it was — an
awful, mistaken accident.
There's more debate, more bargain-
ing. The opposition knows they won't
have all their demands met by the State,
and the State knows they have to give in
somewhat or else the opposition's posi-
tion will be strengthened because more
and more people might see the State as
tyrannical, unfeeling and flagrantly
wielding its unchecked power.
The president goes on T.V. "Anyone
who wants to join our side will receive a
rebate on the next digital clock radio
they purchase at participating Standard
There's some compromising. The
State says they'll play the exact same
jazz tune, "My Baby Loves Me Best
When I'm Not There," on a portable
radio made by Zenith, if their women
expert players don't have to be on their
periods, as the victim apparently was
while playing Julius Guarna. The op-
position agrees, but only if the women
players also have a height and weight
that's within one-half inch and five
pounds of the victim's height and
weight. Yes, says the State, but only if
we get to continue the game all week
instead of just Tuesdays. No, says the
opposition — weekdays only, as Julius
Guarna should have weekends off. The
PROCESSED WORLD 24 »33
State also requests that the actual game
be inside a prison institution; the same
table, but a different locale. The oppo-
sition balks and insists the games all be
played in Guarna's basement, as was the
original game of death. Finally, it's
agreed that a room in the prison be
refurbished to replicate the basement
room as closely as possible: the folding
table with the bag of tortilla chips, the
dip, the lemonade. The cat box in the
corner. The water softener tank, the
cupboard filled with canning jars.
Agreed, but the State insists they get to
choose the brand of chips, dip and
lemonade; that the cat box be clean, the
water softener tank empty and the
cupboard filled with anything they
choose, regardless of its relevance to the
Then there's the matter of the ball
itself The original ball of death had
been inadvertently crushed by an over-
enthusiastic state trooper the night of
the arrest. Much bargaining ensues. It's
finally agreed that although the exact
ball is impossible to supply, a ball of
identical color, weight and approximate
age can be used. This is an important
point, as initially the People's Republic
of China marksmen were using a heav-
ier gauge Chinese ball which had in-
flicted much pain on Julius Guarna.
The opposition thinks that the lighter
ball may be the lifesaving factor in the
And which eye is it to be? The
opposition says the left, of course, as the
woman had been hit in the left eye. The
State has nothing to say about that, and
acquiesces, which is unusual.
Then there's a whole host of environ-
mental factors. The original game had
been at night, and it was stormy and
raining outside. It's agreed that the
prison game will be played regardless of
weather; however, the games will be
played at night.
Negotiations continue; both sides,
particularly the opposition, claim vic-
tory. It seems that if all these complicat-
ed points of contention are honored in
this case, then how can the State go
through such complex negotiations for
each and every case? It seems impossi-
ble and highly unlikely they could
reproduce each homicide execution ex-
actly the way it originally occurred. And
the opposition is ready to go even
further in their quest for authenticity:
the light bulb over the table must be as
old as the original, balls of dust must be
placed correctly beneath the table and a
certain number of nonpoisonous spiders
must be present at all times, with newly
spun webs under at least two corners of
But the State will not relent; the
Ping-Ponging of Julius Guarna contin-
ues. The stage is set repeatedly and the
balls are fired at his eyes. Meanwhile,
all execution cases are stayed by a court
injunction until the outcome of this
historically pivotal case.
The president goes on T.V. "Hold
your horses! Keep your pants on!"
Though no direct death shot has been
made, Julius Guarna is receiving a
rather thorough beating. His own game
has improved drastically, so much so
that a representative for the People's
Republic of China team offers him the
opportunity to try out for their squad.
They are especially impressed with his
defensive skills, fending off as he does
shot after vicious shot. Guarna's cheeks
are puffy and raw from the barrage. As
a result, he starts growing a beard. His
neck and upper arms are bruised and
he's tired of standing up all the time.
Unfortunately, he'd been wearing a
sleeveless t-shirt and cut-offs the night of
the tragedy, and so that's what he has to
wear from now on while playing.
Giant welts and strawberries swell up
all over his body and, even worse, he's
developed a rather debilitating case of
tendonitis in his paddle wrist. It's too
painful to continue, but the State is
adamant: it has to be his eye which is the
epicenter of his troubles, not his wrist.
He must keep playing with his other
arm. The big hitters from the People's
Republic of China are brought in to
bombard the defenseless Julius Guarna.
The president goes on T.V. "In the
interest of goodwill, the First Lady has
agreed to repeat what she was doing the
night of the famous Ping- Pong murder."
Finally Julius Guarna's other arm
gives out; this time it's his elbow. He
can't even return the ball. The State
suggests attaching a paddle to the mid-
dle of his chest, or lots of paddles, or one
huge paddle — a Ping-Pong ball proof
vest. The opposition counters that he
used his arms the night of the accidental
death, so he must use them now while
playing in prison.
By this time public opposition has
shifted overwhelmingly in favor of Jul-
ius Guarna. Cruel and unnecessary
punishment is what some polls claim,
but other polls disagree. What about the
poor victim's rights and her suffering?
Playing Ping-Pong on weeknights is a
small price to pay, indeed. What kind of
execution is this anyway?
The fateful blow comes during the
first hour of play during the second day
of the third week of the sixth month. By
this time Julius Guarna is dangling in a
body brace that's hung from a hook in
the ceiling on his side of the Ping-Pong
table. His feet can touch the floor only if
he chooses, otherwise he just sort of
hangs there, his arms and legs sticking
out of the canvas pelvic apparatus and
swinging gently back and forth. The
opposition cries bloody murder because
no such device was used by Guarna's
victim. The State counters that she
would of if she could of, and since
Guarna is unable to stand on his own
two feet and play the game — which is
the most basic assumption in this whole
case — then he must be propped up.
The knockout blow, unfortunately, is
not a blow to the eye, as is hoped.
Clocked at close to one-hundred miles-
per-hour, the winning shot — a fore-
hand, roundhouse slam by a petite
woman named Liang Naoki — strikes
Julius Guarna in the left temple, in-
stantly rendering him unconscious, as
blows to the temple often do. Complica-
tions arise, though slightly different
from what Guarna's victim suffered; a
different artery is involved, a different
set of convulsions, but the result is the
same and certainly a lot quicker.
Julius Guarna is pronounced by the
State unable to live any longer. The
opposition vows an equal and opposite
reaction of some sort.
The president goes on T.V. "I'd like
to thank the People's Republic of China
Ping-Pong team for their good sports-
manship and extremely clean locker
— by Gregory Burnham
34 • PROCESSED WORLD 24
Walking Out Tomorrow
Shampoo bottles can look quite decora-
tive when arranged in color coordination.
But each long blond hair I pull out of the
drain in Room 14 has the word quit written
all over it. And when I pick up the water
glass with my soapy fingers, it slips and
shatters in the sink. That's the third glass
this week. The thin glass fragments leave a
cut in my hand.
"Let's take a break."
"Mr. Gruner said you gotta be more
careful with the glasses. Otherwise he'll have
to deduct them from your pay," says Mrs.
Freese, while sitting down on the unmade
bed in No. 14.
"Mr. Gruner can go to hell. If the glasses
weren't so cheap to begin with, they
wouldn't break all the time."
I reach into my jacket pocket to pull out
the cigarettes and feel the reassuring enve-
lope in my hand. The letter inside makes it
easy to say something like that.
"Well, you know how he is when it comes
I know. Ever since I started working here
a month ago, the owner and his wife have
been complaining that the hotel is in the red,
and that these days hospitality just doesn't
pay off any longer. They grudgingly agreed
to pay me minimum wage. I had to promise
not to tell the others how much I'm getting
for scraping toothpaste out of twenty-six
sinks. When I told Mrs. Freese, I found out
she is earning half that much, and so is
Angle, whose job it is to cut the mildew out
of the bread. And of course the kids' help is
free, apart from a few slaps here and a
"Why do you let them use you like that?" I
asked her then.
"Ah." she said with a sigh, "I've been
working here all my life. I was already here
when Mr. Gruner was still a baby. I used to
change his diapers. I can't just leave. What
would they do without me?"
There is something different about her
"Are you wearing different glasses?"
She takes them off and rubs her nose,
while I light my cigarette.
"I didn't think you'd notice. These ones
don't fit very well."
She smiles an embarrassed smile. Now I
see the bruise on the bridge of her nose.
"My God — what happened to your nose?"
"Didn't you hear? I fell. It happened
yesterday. I was carrying the laundry bas-
ket, and I stumbled over that step out in the
yard, the one over by the parking lot. I
broke my glasses. Now I gotta wear these,
while my regular ones are being fixed. But
these ones hurt my nose."
"What did your doctor say about your
nose? Shouldn't you stay home for a while?
Maybe it's fractured."
"I don't wanna go to the doctor. I know
what he'd say. He'd make me stay home.
But I can't. They need me here, you see."
It sounds as if she is apologizing to me.
That makes me angry. I remember what she
told me about her life, and again I feel the
desperate urge to somehow remove the old
woman from the calculating claws of the
hotel owners. In a wild moment I visualize
throwing a soggy towel over her head and
leading her through the backdoor to free-
dom. But she would always find her way
back here. Just like she did ten years ago.
That was the time she didn't want to be used
any longer. She had been offered a job at the
local public pool. It was good job. All she
had to do was sit in the sun and hand out
bathing caps. The pay was better, and she
even got annual leave.
"And why, for God's sake, didn't you stay
there?" I asked her.
"Well, one day Mr. Gruner came over
with the wife and the children. And they all
got down on their knees right in front of
everybody, even the children did; and they
all begged me to come back. They needed
me. So I came back."
She needs to be needed.
"I'm just glad you're here to help me," she
says now, smoothing out the bed. "The
bathrooms were always a bit too much for
me, since they can't spare Angle in the
kitchen. I can't imagine what I'd do without
This is probably the right moment to tell
her that today is my last day of wiping
flooded floors. But instead I move on to
"I'm really happy with your work," she
continues across the hallway, while I collect
fingernail clippings from the shower tub.
"The last girl didn't do a very good job. And
then she just quit on me, without saying a
I hurry up with No. 15.
No. 16 dyed her hair and everything
around it, and it takes me a while to get the
mahogany out of the cracks between the
tiles. I notice that No. 22 still hasn't given up
on his athlete's foot, and that Room 26
moved out early this morning. Most guests
leave Alistair McLean books or half-empty
whiskey bottles behind. This one didn't flush
I really should be happy that I don't have
to come back tomorrow.
"Have a nice day," says Mrs. Freese.
"And please try to get here early tomorrow.
We're having a wedding party for fifty
people tomorrow night, and I don't even
know how I'm gonna do it all, with Angle
being sick with the flu."
I go downstairs to the reception area to
collect my first and last paycheck from Mr.
Gruner. It takes me a while to locate him.
He must have had a look at the calendar. I
hand him my list of accumulated hours. He
walks into his office and returns with my
"Here," he says. "But from now on I'd
prefer to pay you on a weekly basis. That
way we can keep a better check on things."
They probably had to change his diapers
And while I walk over to the parking lot, I
realize why I am unable to feel any joy. I
changed my mind without even knowing it.
I can't accept this clerical job at the local
police station. It would have been a good
job. But I can't just walk out on the old.
woman, now that she really needs me.
— Anne Ellsworth
PROCESSED WORLD 24 'SS
Hell On the
SMf AH OIHdVMO
JVlona had worked at Schlager Me-
morial Hospital before, on the thirty-
second floor. As a Sic Transit tempo-
rary, she specialized in statistical typing.
It paid better than straight typing and
was less maddening than listening to
bored executives' voices on a dicta-
phone, but it was still shitty work.
Despite the dullness of the work, the
employees in the Nursing Department
had been congenial, so she didn't mind
returning. But when she arrived at the
hospital, she was steered to the thirty-
third floor, to Fund Raising.
"In here," said the supervisor, show-
ing her into a small, dark, windowless
"Thank you," said Mona to the wom-
an's retreating back. In the office, a
hugely fat blond woman in a flowered
polyester smock sat at a small bare desk.
A word processor, its screen glowing
green, hummed behind her.
"Good morning," said Mona timidly.
"I'm the temp from Sic Transit Tem-
poraries. Are you Ms. Lewis?"
"Miss," said the fat woman. Her voice
was breathy, as if her fat squeezed her
lungs. "We've been needing a temp since
our last girl left. The work is outlined on
those sheets of yellow paper." She point-
ed a round finger at a stack of yellow
lined paper next to an ancient Smith-
Corona portable typewriter.
Mona's heart sank. At large corpora-
tions she worked on state-of-the-art
equipment, but at non-profit organiza-
tions the typewriters were always strictly
World War Two. (The best equipment
she'd ever worked on, in fact, was in the
offices of a major liquor distributor.)
Mona seated herself at the rickety
typing table. There was barely enough
room for her legs underneath.
"You can understand it, can't you?"
asked Miss Lewis, evidently referring to
the typing. Her blond hair was in a
messy bouffant. Stray wisps escaped
from the sides.
"Oh, yes, it seems to be straight
columns. My name is Mona." She
smiled. Mona prided herself on her
friendliness and easy disposition. Most
companies that hired her asked for her
Miss Lewis smiled back, but it was a
tight, strained smile. "Hello, Mona,"
she said. "Nice name, Mona. You don't
meet too many women named Mona.
My mother's name was Mona."
"Is that a fact?" Mona sat down at the
typewriter and shuffled through the
"Yes," said Miss Lewis. "She's dead
now. Died of cancer of the jaw. It was a
terrible sight. Most of her face was eaten
away." She spoke in an emotionless
monotone. "Had to take most of her
food through tubes. Nice name, Mona.
My name is Winifred. I'm named after
my Aunt Winifred. She's dead, too."
"I'm sorry," Mona said nervously,
and began typing. She hoped that
pretending absorption in her work
would make Miss Lewis stop talking.
"There's a lot of death in the world,
don't you think?" Miss Lewis asked, as if
Mona were listening raptly. "I've tried
to kill myself five times. Almost
succeeded, too. You'd want to kill
yourself, too, if you'd been through
what I'd been through."
Mona stared at her for a minute,
unable to believe her ears. "Gosh, do
you know where they keep the white
"Bottom drawer." Miss Lewis pointed
to a standing file cabinet.
"Have you been here long?" Mona
asked after she had fetched the paper.
"Me? No, only six months. I was a
temporary, too. I was fired from this job
only last week." Miss Lewis shifted in
her chair. "I've got another week to go.
Started in the typing pool, but then they
put me in this cubbyhole." She made a
disgusted noise. "I don't know why. I'm
a very social person. Are you a very
Mona glanced at the wall clock. Dear
God, she thought, it was only ten-
fifteen. She decided to tell Sic Transit
that she couldn't work tomorrow, lest
they send her back here. "Yes," she said,
and resumed typing.
"Very interesting, yes," said Miss
Lewis. "I've never had many friends,
but I'm a very social person. One has to
be, don't you think? To survive."
"Friends make the world go round,"
Miss Lewis's nails tapped on the
surface of her desk. "My mother never
said that," she snapped. "She just said
'do this' or 'comb your hair* or 'go to
college.' I didn't go to college. She did.
She was a brilliant woman. But she
died. Cancer of the jaw. I live in the
shadow of death."
Mona stared at the columns of num-
bers. She wished she was back on the
thirty-second floor. "Do you have a
bottle of White Out?"
Miss Lewis shoved the bottle across
her desk to where Mona could reach it.
"Have jiou ever had cancer?" Miss
Taken aback, Mona laughed. "Not
36 • PROCESSED WORLD 24
that I know of!"
"It's a terrible thing," Miss Lewis said
"Yes, Mona. We all live in the
shadow of death, even you. You're very
young, aren't you?"
"Twenty-two. Yes, very interesting."
Mona felt Miss Lewis's tiny sharp
eyes on her. But she resolutely went on
typing columns of numbers.
"Young and pretty," said Miss Lewis.
"I was pretty when I was twenty-two.
Now I'm old and fat."
"You're not old," Mona said politely.
"I'm not?" Miss Lewis leaned for-
ward. "How old a woman would you say
Mona looked up at her. The woman
was so fat that her age was indistin-
guishable. Any wrinkles Miss Lewis
might have had were plumped out of the
smooth, pink face. "I would guess you
were, uh, thirty-four?"
Miss Lewis smiled. Evidently Mona
had guessed wrong. "I look young for
my age, don't you think? That's because
I feel like a girl, not a woman. I'm
sexually underdeveloped, Mona."
Oh, God, Mona thought.
"Yes, the first time was about two
years ago. I haven't since, I don't know
why. But men die too, Mona." Miss
Lewis leaned back. "They think they're
so great, but they die," she said cheer-
fully. "I like to play with myself, though.
I put on a negligee and look in the
mirror. It's cdmost as good as having a
boyfriend. Do you play with yourself,
"No!" Mona cried, even though she
"Too bad." Miss Lewis' gaze drifted to
Mona's hands. "You type very well. I
wish I had a skill. I don't really run this
word processor, they just put it in here
to look like I have something to do. Do
you have a boyfriend?"
"Is he nice?"
"Do you sleep with him?"
Mona nodded, typing furiously. She
would probably have to do the page all
"You look like the sort of woman who
yells a lot when she makes love," Miss
Lewis said speculatively. "My mother
did. Do you?"
This was getting ridiculous, Mona
thought. "That's none of your — "
"I'd like to have a boyfriend," Miss
Lewis interrupted. "I had one, once, I
met him through an ad in a Village Voice
that I found on the subway. We went
out once. It was nice. We were supposed
to go out Friday night, but he stood me
Exasperated, Mona said, "You'll have
to pardon me. Miss Lewis, but I have a
lot of work to do." She patted the pile of
yellow paper. "See how much I have to
do by twelve?"
"I don't know why he stood me up."
Miss Lewis went on as if the other
woman had not spoken. "I'm a very fun
person. That was why I attempted
Mona's stomach lurched. "Please,
Miss Lewis — "
Miss Lewis stared off into space, a
frown on her round face. "I was watch-
ing the Home Shopping Network when
the urge came over me. I ran into the
bathroom and gulped down a whole
bottle of Extra- Strength Tylenol. But
then I threw up. Must have been a sign
from God, don't you think?"
"Please," said Mona again.
"If you're meant to live, you're meant
to live, in whatever damaged condition
you come into the world." Miss Lewis
sighed. "But we all die. My mother died.
Her body wasted away, got thinner and
thinner and she had to take all these
drugs and — "
Suddenly Mona was on her feet, the
typing forgotten. "Stop it!" she pleaded.
"Stop it, I can't stand it! Please, please
stop talking and let me work!"
Miss Lewis glared at her. "You see?"
she said. "You're just like everyone else.
And I thought you were different." She
shrugged. "Makes the world go around."
"SHUT UP!" Mona cried. "I'm going
home! I don't care about the money. I
don't care what the agency thinks. I
can't stand it any longer!"
She tore open the door and ran out
into the corridor, gasping for air.
Miss Lewis stared after her for several
minutes, then picked up the telephone
on her desk.
"Hello, Personnel?" she said into the
receiver. "This is Winifred Lewis. I'm
afraid the new temporary didn't work
out. She's gone home, sick or some-
thing. I don't know why that agency
can't send better people. We pay them
enough. Could you send over one of the
temps from Methods & Procedures?
Thank you so much."
Half an hour later a young girl came
into the office. "Good morning," she
said. "You needed a temp?"
"Yes," said Miss Lewis. "We've been
shorthanded since our last girl left. My
name is Winifred Lewis. What's your
"Charlie," said the girl.
"Hello, Charlie." Miss Lewis beamed.
"Nice name, Charlie. My mother's
name was Charlie. Short for Charlotte,
"My, what a coincidence!" The girl
sat down at the typewriter.
"Makes the world go round," said
— Elisa DeCarlo
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PROCESSED WORLD 24 '37
I'll be right there," my oldest broth-
er Steve said over the 'phone and hung
up. No customers in the shop, he spoke
freely to me. "It's the ol' man. He got
into trouble again." He sighed. "Trouble
is his middle name."
"What'd he do this time?"
"He and his buddy Zipsky were
drinking all morning, beginning of the
month social security check celebration.
The Town Tavern not being air condi-
tioned and it being a warm October
day, they decided to cool off. They went
swimming in the Valley Stream Lake in
their long-johns. The Police picked
them up and took them to the Police
"Since Mom died and he retired, he's
got too much time on his hands," I said.
Steve took off his white butcher
apron, saying, "I've got an idea. I'll ask
him to work in the shop part-time. I'll
tell him the customers have been com-
plaining we don't make Italian and
Polish sausage as good as he does. It
won't stop him from drinking or getting
into trouble, but it might lessen it."
Ignatius Ananicz was named after St.
Ignatius of Loyola, the patron saint of
retreats, the founder of the Jesuit order,
the author of the classic The Spiritual
Exercises. This gnome-like saint wasn't
tall, handsome, or strong. This genius-
mystic was never heard to abuse anyone
or use a scornful word. He was calm,
temperate, angelic. He wasn't at all like
one of his namesakes, better known in
Elmont as Ignatz, Ignacy, Butch or Iggy
the Wild Russian. It's been said what-
ever saint's name is given to you at
birth, God automatically assigns that
saint to be your guardian angel. If this is
so, St. Ignatius was busy indeed watch-
ing over and protecting Iggy's body and
soul from his zany escapades.
Steve picked our father and Zipsky up
at the police station and took them to his
house for lunch. Later, when I saw my
father coming into the shop and go into
the bathroom, I knew Steve had talked
him into returning to work. While my
father put an apron on, Steve told me
when he dropped Zipsky off at his house
our father gave him some money. Later,
when Zipsky came into the shop carry-
ing a bottle-shaped brown bag, we knew
what our father had given him money
for. Zipsky went into the back room
where my father was making Italian
sausages. An hour later, both came out
front a little tipsy.
Wanting to break their drinking bout
Steve went over to our father and asked ,
him if he'd stay and slice enough Italian
style veal cutlets for tonight and Satur-
My father nodded and told Zipsky
he'd see him after work in the Town
Tavern. Then he went into the refriger-
ator and came out carrying a crate of
boneless legs of veal. He put it on the
floor alongside the meat block closest to
the refrigerator. After opening it, he
began cutting the veal into sections,
preparing them for slicing.
Meanwhile, my 2 brothers and I
waited on the customers coming into the
Nearly 5 p.m., one of my father's
Russian customers, a widow in her
sixties, came in, saw my father, and
said, "Hi Butch."
Wearing a short sleeved shirt. Butch
looked up from his meat block. "Hello
Mrs. Kishka." He laid his knife down on
his meat block and went over to the
showcase. Elbows leaning on the white
porcelain counter, he looked Mrs.
Kishka up and down as she stood next to
the 2 women Steve and I were waiting
on. "Mrs. Kishka, you're a nice strong
healthy looking Russian woman. You're
not like these skinny American women.
You have a nice shape. How much do
you weigh — about 195 pounds?"
Chest like a pair of basketballs, Mrs.
Kishka replied, "You're close."
"You're like that singer Kate Smith; I
like that type."
Wearing no make-up, Mrs. Kishka
smiled, "I like your type — tall, dark, and
3« • PROCESSED WORLD 24
"You know Mrs. Kishka, women are
like steak, if there's no fat on them,
they're not good."
Steve walked by my meat block,
muttering, "They're acting like teen-
Hearing him, my father gave him a
nasty look, then looked at Mrs. Kishka.
"You know Mrs., I've got 3 fancy sons.
That is, they think they're fancy. But
when they go to the toilet, they stink it
up just like I do."
Mrs. Kishka put her hand across her
mouth and chuckled. "My daughter's
Steve walked by me muttering, "That
fat broad laughs at every stupid thing he
says. It must have taken all day to pierce
her fat ear lobes."
Hearing this too, my father said to
Mrs. Kishka, "When my skinny sons
and their skinny wives get together, it
looks like a consumptive gathering."
Mrs. Kishka again chuckled.
"My sons asked me to work again.
They don't know how to make good
sausages. They've got cottage cheese
Again Mrs. Kishka chuckled.
"Would you like a drink?"
"Come into the back room." Mrs.
Kishka followed him into the back.
The 3 of us went about our work.
Every now and then we'd hear bursts of
laughter coming from the back room.
About a half hour later, Steve asked
me to call our father. "Tell him we need
veal cutlets." Steve stood near the back
door when I opened it. We saw our
father kissing Mrs. Kishka. After Mrs.
Kishka left the store, Steve went into the
back room and began yelling at him.
"Say what you think this back room
is — a parlor? Next time take your
girlfriend to the Tavern for a drink."
"This is my back room and my butcher
shop. I'll bring whoever I want here.
You better watch your step. 'Cause if
you don't, I'll give you a big kick-in-the-
ass-get-the-hell-out-of-my-shop. This is
what I get for coming to back to work to
Steve came out front and began
serving 1 of the 4 customers now in the
My father came out front and went
behind the customers' side of the counter
and took his apron off. "I quit." Then he
rolled his apron into a ball and threw it
over the counter into Steve's face. "You
know what you can do with that." He
opened the glass front door, walked out,
and slammed it.
— Frank Ananicz
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PROCESSED WORLD 24 •39
THEY WHO WASTE ME
When I ask for a hand,
they give me a shovel.
If I complain, they say.
Worms are needles at work
to clothe a corpse for spring.
I sigh. Whoever breathes
has inhaled a neighbor.
He said: The sky 's so blue there,
you could bathe your feet in it.
And his emotion rose like dust
behind a passing truck.
He always coughs on his lunch.
His eyes are faded, like his shirt.
He smiles: / was strong then,
as big as a young barn.
What can you do for a man?
Time is an old boss
we hate together . . .
SOME DEFINITIONS AT WORK
The hammer lowered its horns
and the rusty nail shrieked
pulled from the place where it lived
The table-saw whined
like a virtuous bee
that knows it will die
in a meadow of dust
The sandpaper sighed
as it killed itself
caressing the sugar pine the ash
The housepainter's brush
with a long stem a vaginal voice
and a spring in its bristle
swayed satisfied with itself on the wall
Glue the woodworker's sperm
began to boil in the pot
The rags their breath
full of turpentine
demanded their rights
and threatened to burst like the sun
Then the woman
who turned into a mop
worn out by the floor
and the man
who'd become a broom
his broad shoulder
lost in the dirt
noticed how even a motor
bleeds when it breaks
drops of oil stare from its skin
like the eyes of frightened fish
Bert Meyers (1928-1979) was born in Los Angeles. Self-educated, he published five
books and won numerous awards. His work has been much praised by poets such as
Robert Bly, Denise Levertov and Marianne Moore.
A member of no literary school or clique, for many years he worked with his hands and
was a skilled picture framer and gilder. He received a master's degree, with no
undergraduate credits, and taught literature at the college level for the last 10 years of his
His quiet, elegant and direct poems were built by a craftsman, to last. They are inspired
portraits of common moments, people and objects surrounded by an increasingly
processed world. Bukowski tells us how the untouchables among us live; Bert Meyers
transcribed the inner and outer lives of those who work for wages, raise families and pay
This mainly work-related selection of poems was taken from The Dark Birds (1966?),
Sunlight on the Wall (1976) and The Wild Olive Tree (1982).
40 • PROCESSED WORLD 24
TWILIGHT AT THE SHOP
The Shop, weakened by dust, was closing its eyes.
The saw stopped like an ambulance. A breeze made of
turpentine still hung around his hands.
Outside, the walls in the alley were gold leaf
fluttering on their frames; clouds, retired housepainters,
relaxed in the sky.
A little cello began to throb in his throat.
Suddenly, he saw the sun overturn like a truckload
of oranges at the end of a street — its light scatter and
roll through the windows on a hill.
What's that got to do with Wittgenstein, or how we
live? voices shouted in his head.
Nothing . . . nothing at all.
A whole day at the saw —
when they come for the rubbish,
I throw myself
out with the dust.
We smile and smoke and praise
what's left of the sun.
Dark trees have bottled its light.
They glow like many beers.
My fingers feed in the fields of wood.
I sand pine, walnut, bass,
and sweat to raise their grain.
Paints, powder and brush
are the seasons of my trade.
At the end of the day
I drive home
the proud cattle of my hands.
ARC DE TRIOMPHE
Nothing but grey seen through the arch-
as if triumph were an abyss
into which a nation marches.
by Bert Meyers
© 1989 Odette Meyers
Used with her kind permission.
Workplace organizing, the "office of
the future," environmental issues, the
Pentagon, psychology, consumption,
foreign capital, and production all con-
verge in the Silicon Valley. Most studies
of The Valley have been at best one
sided and historically blind. Such is not
the case with Behind The Silicon Curtain:
The Seductions of Work in a Lonely Era, by
Dennis Hayes (Boston: South End
Press, 1989). At a recent reading and
discussion of this book, long-time Proc-
essed World contributor Dennis Hayes
disputed the classification of his book as
"Labor/Sociology." Properly, it should
be called "Lost History," for it is a
history of the Silicon Valley, and it deals
with events that have perhaps not been
deliberately hidden, but have certainly
been lost, at least for the people most
affected by the changes wrought by the
micro-electronics industry. Like all use-
ful history, it speaks to the present about
Mr. Hayes traces the growth and
change of this industry, oudining the
spectacular claims of industry boosters,
its equally opulent (and conspicuous)
corporate consumption, and its swift
debilitation. As he puts it, "It was as if
the youthful industry had contracted
progeria, a rare disease that struck down
toddlers with the infirmities of advanced
What might seem the denouement
— the shrinking and exporting of the
industry from its cradle — is actually the
starting point. Kudoka, the Japanese
call It: the "hollowing out" of the United
States' productive capacity by corpora-
tions moving production to distant
shores. The newest working poor, the
hidden contaminations, the absence of
community, the empty offices and
plants, all echo the slower, but no less
permanent, transformation of the Unit-
ed States' earlier industries. This very
process is possible only because of the
electronics industry's success; the mi-
nute chips can be made anywhere, but
the coordination that allows such far
flung enterprises depends on the sophis-
ticated products of the electronics
As a corollary to exporting produc-
tion to off-shore zones, industry "im-
ports" workers (both legal and illegal)
from those same shores. While assembly
workers used to earn about ten dollars
hourly, they are more commonly paid
half that now. In the third world these
wages must be alluring; but in Silicon
Valley in 1988 $13 an hour was consid-
ered a substandard wage!
If there is little money, there is no
community. From the highest levels to
the lowest, transience marks the life of
workers in the industry — whether as
temps, short-term professionals, or as
illegals ceaselessly on the move. Work-
ers are constantly shifting from job to
job, area to area, in a ceaseless dance
that mirrors the mobility of capital —
now shifting from one line to another,
from one country to another, from one
owner to another. This flux reduces any
chance for collective responses, both
subjectively (people are more likely to
see getting another job as a solution),
and objectively (by presenting compa-
ny-wide unions with endlessly "new^'
groups of workers, as well as the threat
that the company itself will simply pack
up and disappear). The reluctance of
traditional unions to venture into these
new industrial areas is perhaps a reflec-
tion of this.
The industry poses (mostly hidden)
health threats: workers are threatened
by the chemicals they work with; local
residents may breathe or drink wastes;
and the "consumers" of the product
(often other workers) "enjoy" the haz-
ards of sped-up production, repetitive
stress injuries, and microwave radia-
tion. Most companies are at best indif-
ferent to these threats, and state agen-
cies have been less than aggressive in
protecting the "public health," giving lip
service to the dangers while engaging in
The threat isn't simply physical, but
extends to the mental health of the
worker, and indirectly to the rest of the
world, for Silicon Valley's customers are
not simply corporations, but also in-
clude the U.S. military. The weapons'
industry is perhaps the biggest client of
the electronics age, yet most literature
about Silicon Valley ignores this. The
isolation experienced by most workers is
exacerbated by the security require-
ments of the Pentagon contractors.
Here we see perhaps the deadliest
42 • PROCESSED WORLD 24
isolation: that of the worker from the
product. This ahenation, combined
with work situations and personal out-
looks that further separate workers,
results in a monastic dedication to
arcane technology. Mr. Hayes sums up:
"Reckoning moral responsibility by
measuring the distance between one's
labor and the product is a legitimate
inquiry, but only if one can hope to
measure reliably. The division of labor
in military electronics suggest the inter-
dependency and responsibility of all
workers but — and this is the paradox
— encourages profound distance be-
tween worker and product. . . As a
result, workers can manufacture, in
addition to military electronics, a na-
ivete about the impact of their labors
and, at least among obliging and com-
plicit workers, escape ridicule for an
While there is a romance to the
work — certainly an absorbing fascina-
tion, it is also, especially in the work-
place, a high-pressure and all-absorbing
task. Mr. Hayes conjures up the ghost
of Charles Babbage, who helped con-
ceive of the earliest calculating ma-
chines. Babbage was also one of the
foremost advocates of "rationalizing"
work — of breaking all tasks into simple,
repetitive steps, a process which helped
shatter the old craft guilds. The com-
puter industry itself (especially software)
has mostly resisted this trend. The
technique known as "structured pro-
gramming" is revealed to be both a tool
grasped by the programmer to increase
his (or her) ability to tackle large tasks,
and a tool for the managers to attempt
to control the programmers and to
streamline the production of software.
In fact, it has not dramatically helped
increase the efficiency of programming,
but it has allowed a greater separation
between worker and product, especially
in the military world, where it reinforces
the "need-to-know" atmosphere.
The flip side of the team programmer
is the individual hacker, alternately
reviled as saboteur and praised as
innocent techno-wizard. The typical
hacker doesn't have a political program;
the motivations are access to more
computing power and a desire to ex-
plore the electronic net that grids the
(developed) world. In reality, most
sabotage of business and government
systems comes from disgruntled em-
ployees, past and present. Most of this is
not reported (less than 2%), for fear of
panicking nervous stock-holders and
customers. While this form of attack has
rarely been openly political, it "quietly
suggests something larger than petty
electronic sniping and greed: a latent
collective power available to millions of
computer workers, a power that can
press their political interests successfully
against their employers everywhere."
Although small "professional respon-
sibility" organizations have sprung up,
they have done as much (or more) to
limit the acceptable range of opposition
as they have done to limit abuses of
technology. The "Computer Profession-
als" organization has shaped the debate
around Star Wars as a debate about
technical feasibility, rather than desira-
bility. It is deemed "irresponsible" to
recommend active computerized resis-
tance as a source of workers' power
because it is perceived as a medium of
employee crime and 'terrorism.'" One
suspects that the proper name should be
"Computer Professionals for Social Re-
spectability," for they never question the
system that created them. This technol-
ogy is so powerful, and its consequences
so devastating, that it must not be
blindly pursued. Yet calls for social
control fall on deaf ears. Indeed, they
are often seen as attacks on the wonder-
ful world of work, at least by industry
professionals. The real danger is not in
database raiding, or angry employees
erasing your credit records, but rather
from the naivete and technological fas-
cination of these people. Their toys are
out of control, and they will suffer no
Beyond the long hours and involve-
ment, these people betray serious prob-
lems in the new workplace. Far from
representing a revitalization of the
work-ethic, they reveal a profound iso-
lation. Various corporate cultures have
attempted to increase the seduction of
work, and to provide palliatives for that
same seduction. The new professionals,
unlike those of the 19th century, are not
"helping professionals," and they lack
the guild-like solidarity of the earlier
age. Isolated physically in suburbs
among unrecognized neighbors,
trapped in traffic, and then absorbed
into a specific task, the psychological
make-up of the new professional guar-
antees that isolation will be redoubled;
indeed, the "masochistic self-denial. . .
an operational withdrawal from families
and social life, and a pre-emptive defer-
ral of social responsibility" can only lead
to a reinforcement of the physical pat-
terns of their lives.
The maintenance of individual psy-
chological balance takes many forms:
perhaps an excessive dedication to
health and fitness (at times to the point
of injury) that denies the risks around
them or perhaps by the consumption of
an estimated $500 million worth of
drugs (in 1985). The large numbers of
individuals undergoing therapy reveal
not just the psychological pressures, but
also the isolated nature of the response
to a collective problem.
When all of this fails (or succeeds),
one can always drive to the mall for a
little excitement. Silicon Valley deni-
zens inhabit the shopping centers more
than most other Americans, spurred on
by the manipulations of desire and
artificial gratification engineered by the
VALS (Values and Lifestyles) program.
In this place of little human contact the
commodity reigns supreme — both as the
end-product of work and as the raison
d'etre of life. These people aren't mater-
ialists in the normal sense, for "they
pursue the fantastic symbols offered by
commodities. . ." rather than the item
itself Conspicuous consumption is
other-directed (they can see how well
off, how tasteful you are), while the new
consumption attempts to satisfy unmet
needs and a lack of integration (both
social and psychological).
Another compensatory mechanism is
found in groups such as World Without
War, which is therapy disguised as
politics, for it lets participants feel good
about what they're doing, even as they
continue to produce for the military. It
also serves to sidetrack any opposition
into the fairy-land of ideails and
This excellent book won't be spoiled
by quoting from the last paragraph:
"The Information Age has stripped us of
our social sensibilities, but it has not
consigned us to a new dark age. For all
the ennui it has brought us, our infatua-
tion with electronics technology has also
placed the levers of social change within
reach of those previously declared pow-
erless or marginal. An indomitable
power to subvert economic and political
policy now resides in the consoles of
over 30 million computer workers who
process the fiscal, economic, and social
alchemy that is late capitalism. It is a
lever contemporary social critiques
largely ignore; perhaps rightly so. For
without the political will, or at least a
glimmer of collective self-consciousness,
the lever cannot be pulled on behalf of
meaningful and popular change."
Indeed. Read this Book!
¥ ^ -¥^ ■¥■
— reviewed by P. Morales
PROCESSED WORLD 24 •43
"Hither you have come to appear on the
stage, but first
You must tell us: What is the point?"
I was disturbed to find Allen Krebs'
"Children of the Night" in Processed
World 23. Krebs' despairing portrait of
socizil relations inside the urban schools
is offensive and unfocused. What is the
point of his writing? If Krebs had sought
to simply present a "tale of toil," as the
editorial collective so labeled his piece, I
would not be writing in response. If
Krebs' point was simply that substitute
teaching is hell, his readers could en-
thusiastically commiserate with his fate
and enjoy the anecdotes he shares.
Unfortunately, Krebs is not content
to simply relate his experiences. In-
stead, his article both begins and ends
with an ill-conceived analysis of school-
ing in an urban community. His analy-
sis is based solely on his own superficial
observations. Krebs maintains that the
Oakland Public Schools "are places of no
account, the bottom of the line." He
believes that the schools are simply
"holding facilities, warehouses." Krebs'
analysis parallels the theoretical work of
structuralists of many shades. The pos-
sibility that the school itself could be a
contested social space — an arena where
individuals engage in various forms of
resistance and where a myriad of socie-
tal struggles work themselves out — is
"All you put before us are victims, acting
Like helpless victim of inner impulses and
outside powers. "
Krebs' school community is a com-
munity of helpless victims. Students are
seen as only engaging in self-destructive
forms of resistance. Krebs, engaging in
a healthy dose of racial stereotyping,
makes the assertion that Asian students
are the only notable exception to this
behavioral norm. "Asian kids," notes
Krebs, "sweep the honor roll. . . and in
class the behavior of these kids is
44 • PROCESSED WORLD 24
exemplary: quiet, industrious and curi-
ous." That many Asian students do not
fit this stereotype and that non-Asian
students also can be seen with these
same "exemplary" traits are realities not
fully explored. In fact, his comments
and observations on "the good student"
are ignored in his analysis. The reader is
meant to excuse Krebs' digression on
the school's successes and return to the
more important task of identifying its
The failures of the school are seen
both in the absence of "learning" and in
the students themselves. Krebs main-
tains that "learning is largely incapable
of attainment under the circumstances."
What forms of learning Krebs appar-
ently is concerned about are unidenti-
fied. The reader is left on his or her own
to ponder how an individual could fail to
learn from his or her daily experiences.
Krebs more disturbingly seems to
blame the students themselves for many
of the shortcomings of the schools.
Krebs misidentifies the "structural
problems of the schools" as those relat-
ing to decay and inadequate mainte-
nance of the physical plant. The more
significant problem of an oppressive
sociail structure is ignored. Krebs while
believing that "a thatched shack in the
jungle" can provide "a superb environ-
ment for learning," maintains that in
Oakland "sordidness is massively com-
pounded by the students' own prob-
lems." Krebs repeats this offensive —
and, perhaps, racist — reasoning in
blaming the schools' problems on "stu-
dents whose backgrounds make learning
difficult if not impossible."
"We nou) askyou
To change yourself and show us our world.
As it really is: made by men and women,
open to alteration. "
Instead of simply blaming the victim
and despairing in a belief that individu-
als are powerless, the intellectual has the
responsibility of identifying how people
struggle to form communities and gain
power over their lives. Such an article
would not be content to complain about
"the general structural problems" as if
they were only physical. Instead the
article would examine the bureaucracy
in the school system and identify how
funding appropriations are made. After
all, the Oakland Public Schools are on
the verge of insolvency, while at the
same time the schools have an average
class size that indicates an inadequate
number of teachers working in the
school. Where and on what is the school
district's money being spent? In the
midst of this crisis, what role has the
teachers' union played in addressing the
educational concerns of the community?
In contrast to Krebs' portraiture of
the student population in Oakland,
much can be said. Oakland, after all, is
the community where the Black Panther
Party developed. Huey Newton and the
others attended the Oakland Public
Schools. Not surprisingly students
emerging from such an environment are
both highly politicized and race consci-
ous. The most popular musical groups
among the students today are groups
with a political message (such as Public
Enemy and Boogie Down Productions).
Black students in the schools have begun
to wear red, black and green African
pendants to demonstrate their political
commitment, and large clocks around
their necks to symbolize their knowledge
that we live in a crucial time.
Student resistance has also expressed
itself more directly. For example, stu-
dents with the support of the larger
community have begun to organize a
campaign to reinstitute Black Studies in
the school curriculum. Only two years
ago, students at Oakland High walked
out of classes and marched downtown to
protest the school board's attempts to
implement year-round scheduling. The
board facing both this protest and
leaflets circulating at many other Oak-
land public schools, backed down to the
Students today and in the past have
been actively working to gain control
over the institutions that affect their
lives. They have not acted simply as
powerless victims. They are not from
backgrounds that "make learning diffi-
cult if not impossible." They do not
believe that they spend their days in
"places of no account." Rather, they
learn daily. They understand their real-
ity. They know what 'time" it is. As
Public Enemy have advised, they "don't
believe the hype" — even if it is printed as
a "tale of toil" in Processed World. Most
importantly, they struggle to ignore
those who serve a steady diet of despair.
Like the young everywhere, they main-
tain their hopes and dreams of a better
— L. Barbudo
L. Barbudo has taught for two years in the
Oakland Public School system. Before Oak-
land, L. Barbudo lived in Boston and was
active in the student movement. The poetry
quotes are from Bertolt Brecht's "Speech to the
Danish Working- Class Actors on the Art of
These accounts of the Oakland
school system are played out against
an ominous backdrop. As of late
summer, 1989, the Oakland school
system is facing a multi-million dol-
lar deficit; a state imposed trustee-
ship; and has had several officials
and staff arrested in a broadening
probe of corruption. It has consid-
ered cutting virtually all non-
academic classes, including sports
and music. The grim scenario of
self-serving politicians and (some)
staff gorging at the public feed-
trough distract from the real inha-
bitants of the school: the students
and teaching staff.
— the Editors
17 January and 28 February, 1989
Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
Hello to All,
There are a lot of trial balloons
floating around the press about ex-
changing foreign debt for investments in
environmental protection, esp. in the
Amazon. Feels like a consensus devel-
oping in that direction. That's where
Chico Mendes fits in — he was the best
known leader of the seringueros, the
rubber tappers (you've probably read all
about him since his murder; it got
more attention here for the international
reaction than for the actual murder —
virtually commonplace throughout
northern Brazil; 1,500 political assassi-
nations since 1980; only 6 have even led
to arrests, only 1 conviction of a pistole-
ro — vast majority of the murdered are
active militants, many union leaders,
leftist priests, agrarian reform activists,
and even some politicians.).
On a down-to-earth daily life level
they are fighting for a decent, humane
existence. They represent the rational
exploitation of the forest — they might
prefer a cooperative, non-capitalist life,
but they show the way for a more
modern way for Brazil to use its patri-
mony (as they are fond of calling it).
The Partido Verde, and most other eco-
logical proponents, are quick to empha-
size that continued "development" on
the same path (deforestation through
burning, eventual cattle ranching for a
few years) is going to sacrifice a much
greater potential wealth — the richest
gene bank in the world! So, just like
home, ecological arguments hinge on
catering to dreams of future profits, new
efficiencies, modernizing the economy,
of course no talk of making a break with
such a logic. . . .
In Xapuri, the union office is across a
small lot from the Rodoviana (bus sta-
tion) and abuts the same plaza as the
Policia Militar and the large Catholic
Church, 2 institutions with diametrical-
ly opposite relationships to the events
there. As it turns out, the Sindicato has
been having lots of media-type visitors
over the past 2 months (and a BBC crew
over the past 2 years) and since their
lives are on the line and it's all still new
and fresh (emotionally, many are still
really feeling the pain of Mendes' assas-
sination), they were waiting with a
union truck to take us on the tour,
though they themselves don't seem to
conceptualize it that way.
It took nearly three hours to get to the
Posto de Saude, a small 2-room wooden
shack adjacent to a number of other
buildings inhabited by a seringuero fami-
ly. Then we drove another 30 minutes
and came to the seringal of Chico
Mendes' brother-in-law and walked
through a forest until we came to a
clearing where other friends and family
live in very primitive wooden shacks.
From there we took a short walk into
deeper forest and got a demonstration of
rubber tapping and the harvesting of
castanheiros, known to us as Brazil nuts.
On the way back Saba, our main host,
gestured back to the forest and told us
that it is in the forest that the seringueros
feel free, since at home many are
marked for death and in general they
are all afraid to walk the streets of
Xapuri at night.
These guys are really smart, super
class-conscious. Saba told us that the
connection to the Pacific would bring
nothing to the workers of Acre, and
Chico Mendes had succeeded in stop-
ping money for the asphalting of
the road at a BID meeting in 1987 I
think, on the grounds of the damage it
would bring to the environment and
the indigenous peoples and the serin-
I felt pretty disgusted when I saw
Bush's supposed warning — dunno how
it went over in the U.S. but here it was
preceded already by a growing wave of
nearly hysterical nationalism, right-
wing politicians on the news every night
solemnly or passionately proclaiming
their categorical opposition to the "in-
ternationalization of the Amazon" or as
Sarney put it when he got back from
Japan, he wasn't going to allow the
Amazon to become a "Green Persian
>nian State of Acre, Brazil
PROCESSED WORLD 24 '45
But the U.S. interest has seldom
been so naked as in this case of the road
to the Pacific — how much of the Japan-
ese beef market will American produc-
ers lose if this road is built? How much
rtiore will Japanese consumer products
invade the Brazilian market, tradition-
cilly the domain of U.S. multinationals?
George Bush cares about the rain forest?
Only to impress naive environmentalists
in the U.S..
The road in Acre, and the whole story
of the massive dam-building plans of the
Brazilian government in the Altamira/
Xingu region (and actually on a number
of other rivers too), are two examples of
the battle of Modernity here, or more
accurately, Brazil's attempt to copy the
opening of the American West, only
with the technologies of the late twen-
tieth century instead of that of the late
19th. There is a commonly-held patrio-
tism that Brazil is the country of the
future — not surprisingly it's the military
that really pushes this, nowadays from
behind the scenes (for the moment they
still control the government complete-
The story of the Indians of the Xingu
River Basin, and perhaps more compel-
lingly, the story of the Yanomami up on
the northern border, is one that reminds
me of all the genocides and massacres
and just plain fucking raw deals that got
shoved down the throats of Indians all
over the U.S.. Every heart-rending
story you've ever heard about some
awful thing done to Indians is happen-
ing right now in Brazil — makes me sick
just thinking about it.
So we went to that big Indian meeting
in Altamira, sort of by accident. We
were in Belem and decided to track
down this organization that was in the
paper, SOPREN, the Society for the
Preservation of the Cultural and Natu-
ral Resources of the Amazon. By pure
luck we arrived at their office in an old
museum just before a press conference
was about to begin in preparation for
the following week's 1st Meeting of
Indigenous Peoples in Altamira. At that
press conference we met Darrell Posey,
the U.S. ethnobiologist who just got his
charge of "smearing the good name of
Brazil abroad" dropped, and is a very
smart and interesting guy who has done
a lot of work with the Kayapo Indians,
and has come to some fascinating con-
clusions about how "unnatural" the
rainforest is, since the Indians have
been actively managing it for thousands
of years. He argues that a significant
46 • PROCESSED WORLD 24
part of the distribution of flora and
fauna results from active intervention
by the Indians. More trouble for the
theoreticians of pristine nature.
We also met several of the organizers
of the event, and by chance were
introduced to Joao de Castro, who
turned out to be our most gracious and
informative host while in Altamira — he
put us up in his house (later we
imagined that this was probably as good
for him as for us, since he and his family
are quite worried for their physical
safety, especially now that everyone has
The event was really pretty amazing
— not often in Brazilian or world history
have you had anything quite like this.
For one whole day of the 5-day Encontro
the head man of the government electric
utility sat listening to denunciations of
his plans from Indians, some of whom at
the start of the conference had fled into
the forest when they encountered so
many Indians, not to mention the army
of international and national media (I've
never seen so many hand-held video
cameras in one place in my life, could've
been a convention).
At the pre-event press conference a
rep announced that this was not going to
be a pique-nique, or a folkloric event.
But folkloric it was, and we actually felt
very uncomfortable when we went to the
Indians' camp where they were sitting
around or occasionally doing a dance of
some sort, but were ON DISPLAY in a
disturbingly zoo-like atmosphere. But
they showed an amazingly sophisticated
sense of media and theater in the whole
staging of this event. Along with this
modern sense of media came the con-
centration of communications responsi-
bilities in just a few hands. Our last day
at the conference, we interviewed some
Indians outside during a break. Most
wouldn't grant interviews, but one who
did expressed strong unhappiness about
having been told to leave the talking to
the other leaders, since he felt that made
the rest of them look stupid. So the
Indians staged this modern media spec-
tacle, and even had a rare experience of
some kind of popular democracy also of
a distinctly modern sort (just a few years
ago several of these tribes were at war
with one another).
But the other part of the story, mostly
ignored (as far I could tell) by the
media, was the town of Altamira itself,
and the larger question of moderniza-
tion in the Amazon. On the first day of
the Encontro the local U.D.R. chapter
(Unido Democratico Rural— the most or-
ganized ultra-right group in the coun-
try, has a strong grip on most small
towns in the interior of the country —
also reputed to be the sponsor of the
death of Chico Mendes and most death
squad activity in Brazil), staged a huge
rally, which at the time made it seem
that the entire town was in favor of the
dam, and hence against the Indians and
the ecologists (oh, there was also a parallel
encounter every night of Non-govern-
mental Preservationist Organizations).
All the stores in town and even the
city hall was closed in support of this
A Kayapo Indian at the First Indigenous People's Meeting in Altamira
demo. We felt pretty depressed, espe-
cially since many people seemed very
zealous, and the U.D.R. seemed to
have things very under control. They
had already staged two provocations
during the weekend before the confer-
ence was to begin; someone took five
shots from the road into the Indian
camp — no injuries, gunmen escape into
the night, then a blockade is staged
when a huge truck breaks down right in
front of the gate of the Indians' camp —
delicate, undisclosed negotiations re-
solve the impasse. The original plan was
for the Indians to have a march through
town but they canceled that idea to
avoid a confrontation.
After that initial show of force,
though, the story began to shift for us as
during the rest of the week we kept
finding more and more people opposed
to the dam, and by the end of the week
there was a magnificent rally against the
dam, attended by at least 5,000 on a
Thursday afternoon, even though all the
stores and city hall remained open. For
Altamira this was an amazing week,
democracy in the streets, the whole
thing. Everyone was talking all week
about the dam, energy policy, the press,
the whole surrounding area has been
deforested and is masquerading as farm
land (though you cannot get any fresh
produce grown locally, it's all boated or
trucked in from Belem, tomatoes 300%
more expensive than in Belem, beer
twice as much, etc. and most of the
population is very poor). . . .
Carnaval in Salvador lived up to its
wild reputation, and we sampled it
without getting lost in it or devoured by
it (both real possibilities). The scene in
Salvador is not like Rio de Janeiro or
Sao Paulo, where Carnaval is a huge
pageant and appears almost like a Las
Vegas stage show. In Salvador there are
between 50-100 different groups, called
blocos, some of whom are accompanied
by a Trio Eletrico, a deceiving name I
believe derived from the first ones in the
mid-1970s, but now a large band of 6-13
people, on top of a 2-story tall truck, the
height being constructed entirely of
giant high-quality speakers with enor-
mous sound output. The bands on the
Trios were nearly all local to Bahia, but
all seemed well-known, tight and
danceable, and surprisingly to us, they
all played each other's songs, especially
the songs written for this Carnaval.
Salvador is a very intense city and no
one should go there imagining that it is
an easy place to be — it's very segregat-
ed, our black friend compared it to
South Africa, and the racial tension is
palpable (kind of like going to Detroit).
But it is a beautiful city too, and the
black community maintains Candomble
and LJmbanda, two syncretic faiths, as
forms of cultural survival and opposi-
tion, there in town. We almost had an
interview with an Afro-bloco, He Aiye,
who are very black nationalist, and had
the slogan at last year's Carnaval: Cem
Anas de Abolicao, Cem Anas Sem Nada. 100
Years of Abolition (of Slavery, 1888 in
Brazil), 100 Years of Nothing.
— Lucius Cabins
So You Want to Be a Kodak Drone?
I used to have an ideal in my head
that a larger company would be so large
that they wouldn't really have the time
to care what you thought as long as you
got the job done. My job at Kodak in
Denver, Colorado was repairing high
speed copiers at customer offices, which
I thought meant little supervision. Little
did I know that "looking sharp and
professional at all times" was most
important. But this didn't have much to
do with the actual repair of a copier.
The job started out with little interfer-
ence from my supervisor, Steve, for the
first five months, but things went quick-
ly downhill when the business climate
changed and customers were buying
and leasing fewer Kodak copiers.
Steve started evaluating my work by
visiting the work site where I was
repairing the customer's copier. He
would write me up, selectively noting
bad things about my performance, like
how I dressed in slacks that did not look
"professional." When a customer had a
problem with a copier that was not fixed
the first time I visited and I had to go
back to repair it, Steve would always
write that up. One time he went out to
lunch with me and my co-workers to see
how I "interacted" with them.
When Steve fired me, he told me I
had to sign a paper saying I left under
my own free will. I told Steve he would
have to wait a very long time before I
did that. For sticking up for myself, I
received two weeks of severance pay,
medical benefits for two months and
unemployment benefits, none of which I
would have gotten if I had just signed
that agreement with Steve.
rpic SnlciiDrfjlcubcr Ji
While I was on unemployment for
five months, I started volunteering at a
handicapped ski program in nearby
Winter Park, Colorado, teaching skiing
to mentally disabled kids. I learned from
these disabled people that "fitting in"
was something they could never do.
Society categorizes them either as really
weird or really feels sorry for them or
both. I learned from the disabled that
"fitting in" was not always the best thing
for me either.
After the skiing program ended, I
moved out to California to work for a
small company in the San Jose area that
serviced Kodak copiers. They really
wanted someone right away and gave
me the impression I was the one. I soon
found out that the service manager at
this place wanted me to be even more
"professional" than Kodak. A week after
I was hired, I told my supervisor during
lunch that I windsurfed and that I
planned to keep my board on top of my
car, so after work I could go sailing. The
supervisor told me that I would look
"unprofessional." Needless to say, I only
lasted two weeks, and during my "dein-
terviewing" (firing), I was told how I
didn't fit in. The supervisor insisted on
insulting me, telling me about all his
troubles even though he didn't want to
hear any of mine. So I asked for my
check. After I got it, I "returned" the
, parts and tools that I carried in my car,
throwing them all over the parking lot of
the office complex and yelling, "If you
don't give a shit about me, why should I
care about you!"
My supervisor looked at me in this
totally perplexed trance, like he was
thinking: "This person looks mad and
humiliated; gee whiz, I wonder why. . ."
After I got into my car, I proceeded to
run over the parts I had tossed around
the parking lot. Leaving like a flaming
madman was not as humiliating as the
supervisor would have liked it. If the
spirit is within you, waiting to jump out,
do it next time you're fired, and you'll feel
— C.J. Flaming Madman, SF, CA
PROCESSED WORLD 24 •47
Apologies to All . . .
... to err is numinous. In PW23, the
poet of "Our Economic System" should
have read Bruce Isaacson, not Bruce
Jacobson. Mr. Isaacson has declined to
change his name; in this issue he
appears in an unedited guise.
The editor concerned did not realize
her mistake until one night after publi-
cation, when she "awoke from a dream
that some evil enchanter had cast." So
We also accidently omitted the name
of the author of the "SFAI Memo" in
issue #23. Anne Harvey deserves the
credit & thanks.
— The Editors
Perhaps we should view Robert Tap-
pan Morris (good middle name) as a
half life hero, a not-yet-hero. Think of
all the demonstrators and nuke resisters
in this country and in Europe who for
years have been trying to stop nuclear
war — and Robert T. Morris stopped the
Pentagon and military research for a
day and a half. All with one computer
and his own little virus.
Well, not all by himself, he had a little
help. He is the son of Robert T. Morris
Sr. who is "the chief computer scientist
for the National Computer Security
Center near Baltimore, the Federal
agency responsible for protecting classi-
fied data and other national security
information stored in computers."
The kid is a little like his dad. There is
however, a dramatic difference not only
in age but in effect. The younger
Morris, a Cornell student is an almost-
hero. He entered a series of commands
that caused 60,000 computers across the
U.S. "directly or indirectly tied to the
Department of Defense computer net-
work" to crash!
Heh, here is a fast way to stop the
From South Africa, Dr. Taj Hargey, a professor of history at University of Cape
Town, has been traveling up and down California through much of this summer,
with some sorties back East. He is soliciting support for a new newspaper in South
Africa, The Forum, which will be a 48 page secular weekly; the country's first
independent black-owned newspaper since The Voice, a short-lived rag which was
shut down in the period of repression in the late 1970s following the Soweto
"Unless black people have full and unfettered access to local and international
news coverage, they will remain shackled to those dehumanizing notions of
inferiority and discrimination so subtly fostered and professionally propagated by
the South African bureaucracy and the news media as a whole."
Thus far, the most support Dr. Hargey has found has been from individuals.
Donations (whether money or PC/Mac computers, programs, or peripherals for a
high-end desktop publishing enterprise) are desperately sought, and tax-deductible.
Address: South Africa Free Press Agency,
c/o Tecnica, 3254 Adeline Ave.,
Berkeley, CA 94703 USA
Checks payable to the Institute For Technology Development (SAFPA). &
-RGB, SF, Ca.
[Honest, officer, it was just a mis-
I'm getting real pissed off about
pissing in the bottle. These fools are
everywhere, and its getting harder &
harder to avoid them. So I was thinking
that some of us flunky lower/middle
management types might for once do
some good, since we're the ones they're
trying to stick with the unpleasant task
of enforcing compliance upon our breth-
Put in other words, this crazy system
is only as good as the records it keeps,
and if there's one thing we white collar
types are superb at, it's keeping records.
Or mis-keeping them, if we're in a lousy
mood, or tired, or the computer fucks
up. Get my drift?
What would be really neat is if there
was a network of white collar resistors.
people who would cooperate with each
other. Like I feel a lot freer to change
the data at my end if you're also
changing it at your end. Or maybe
you're a computer whiz but I'm a
humble clerk who happens to know
everything about how the data is en-
tered. Or maybe you get paid $4 an
hour to work in some lab where you do
nothing but handle bottles of pee all day
long, and you know what all those little
numerical codes mean. And I have a
friend who knows how to change num-
The possibilities are endless. And if
enough people cooperate on this ether-
eal level, no one will ever get caught.
The Republicans will be happy. Ameri-
ka will be drug free — at least on paper.
Maybe you could save some column
space for people who want to share info
on this particular intestine of the beast.
Mary Jane Whitecollar
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